In search of: // Jan 2021

Good Vibes, Reflections

“If I cease searching, then; woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Hanging out with these beautiful and majestic elephants in Thailand at Lanta Elephant Santuary, Jan 2020

Hello, people of the world! It’s been a little over a year since my last post and in some ways, Dec 2019 seems like just a few weeks ago and in most ways, it seems like years ago. What a year 2020 was, huh? Today I write not only because it would’ve been my Momma’s 54th birthday, but also because tomorrow I start on an exciting new journey exploring a new industry that I think will be the one for me.

One of my favorite memories was going backpacking in the Olympics with some close friends, August 2020

In search of: Stability

For the past few years, the one thing I’ve been in search of most is stability. I want it and sometimes I need it so I can keep on going, come what may. I needed it most in 2018 after my mom passed and I needed it in 2020, like most of us. As I reflect on 2020, as unstable as it was, it was the year of the most growth for me.

It was the best year yet for me and John. Being the social butterfly I’ve always been, I needed to learn how to be okay with not having a plan, find stillness in the chaos, and most important of all, be honest with myself and others on what I truly needed in the moment to feel like I had it together. I also learned the true meaning of what it means to be home. John has been my constant, one of the strongest roots of my growing tree, and I am very lucky that the universe gave me him as a partner and lover for life. We learned more about each other this past year and have some exciting plans to look forward to in the years ahead. Team work truly makes the dream work. ILY!

Enjoying the rare PNW sun on our balcony during a daily lunch break, June 2020

It was the best year yet for me developing a relationship with my mom’s spiritual presence. I feel her during more various situations, not just when I need her most, and that’s been such a treat. I credit this to meditation and learning to not have expectations. Just like today—I woke up and knew it was her birthday, but it wasn’t until now that I felt a mental nudge from her to write down my thoughts and share it with the world after more than a year of writer’s block. I talk about her more often and openly and am able to be emotional but not breakdown in anger and sadness. The emotions have also been more of a 70/30, happy/sad combination, which is progress for me. For example, I’ll experience something great and happy and I’ll say “Thanks Mom!” Or “Wish you were here!” And sometimes it’ll be followed with “Ugh, I miss you and wish you were here” with a few teary moments if the feelings were particularly strong. Either way, I am so grateful to have this stability of emotions following a very difficult period in my young adult life and I am so grateful to have known my mom so well that I can figure out how she’d guide me in situations where I feel stuck or lost. I am also so grateful for and proud of my family who has supported one another as we live our lives and honor her. Happy birthday my beautiful Momma! Thank you for continuing to love, support, and guide us.

Visiting my mom on her 3rd death anniversary, December 2020

With the pandemic affecting the micro and macro environments we interact with on a daily basis, it was only a matter of time until I would feel the domino effect of these influenced and sometimes forced changes in my job. Some of you know that I manage the outdoors category for one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the world. All of 2020, I was working 100 mph, not only because I was working towards a promotion, but also because of the intense demand my category saw through all the weeks in the year. It was in a way fulfilling for me because it meant that people were enjoying the great outdoors! But working for corporation that is customer obsessed, also means making sure you’re doing what ever you can to keep up with demand so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Often times I would lose sight of my “why”. “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I putting this pressure on myself to get to this promotion if I am burnt out?” “Why do I keep pushing my limits?” “Why am I always seeking meaning in this job? Shouldn’t it come more easily? There has to be a better path out there for me.” This pressure and uncertainty took a toll on my mental and personal health and after a long drive with my best friend in the middle of summer to seek clarity, I decided that the retail industry wasn’t for me. I stuck to my personal promise where I work to live, not live to work. I decided to forego my promotion, let go of a little bit of my ego, and instead pursue a career that will fulfill me. After searching 4 months, I landed a great internal role in a parallel organization: advertising. I love working with brands and helping them grow their business. Best of all, I’ll be managing the brands in the sports and outdoors categories where I get to have continuity and work with categories that I have a personal interest in. Tomorrow is Day One again for me and I am so excited!

The inspiring Zion view I looked at when I felt my spark come back and knew I needed something to change, July 2020

With quarantine and working from home since March really affecting my mental health (I know I’m not alone here), combined with political instability, a depressing economy with so many people losing their jobs, and watching major cities struggle to figure out how to help small businesses and support those affected by COVID, it was incredibly difficult to find some sort of meaning to keep me going. I gained weight, was emotionally eating, didn’t feel like talking to people sometimes, and really wasn’t feeling like myself. Through meditation and daily check-ins with my mind and body (thanks Hatch), I discovered that part of it was because we lived in the suburbs where we were limited to what we can explore by foot and part of it was because our neighborhood was changing and made it difficult to continue calling our house a home. I felt like I was floating and couldn’t find a way back to the ground. Ultimately we decided to spontaneously move out of our suburb home and into a city high-rise apartment and live the life we were more familiar and were happy with, while we renovate our house and putting it on the market in the spring. Our end goal is to eventually move to a big city like NYC, so we’ll see where our life will take us and where we decide to settle and call a place our “forever home”. We know we like being in places with energy, innovation, and good food 🙂

On a morning walk on the Brooklyn Bridge where I felt so energized, alive and at home, November 2020

In search of: Joy and Fulfillment

As I think about my goals for this year, it’s really two things: to find more joy in the things I do and to find fulfillment in the career I am beginning. With these two goals, I am able to easily gauge my progress, make reasonable adjustments, and ultimately feel more stable and at home.

I challenge you to create attainable and simple goals as we continue to learn from this past year and grow as human beings. Let’s be more kind to one another, be more patient with ourselves, and have hope that we come out of this strange period of time as better friends, partners, and communities.

As my mom said it best: “a day without laughter is a day wasted”. Let’s laugh a little bit more and do things that will bring us more joy, even during a time of uncertainty and darkness. Much love, from me to you!

25 Things I Learned Before Turning 25 // Mar 2019

Good Vibes


“Don’t lose who you are, in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard, to follow your heart
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are.”

– Jessie J.

Tomorrow, I will be at the age I’ve been looking forward to turning since I was 18. I’ve always been a planner…when I was 7, I was thinking of the things I would do when I turn double digits. When I was 10, I was looking forward to watching PG-13 movies and finally being a teenager. When I was 13, I was thinking of high school and the things I needed to do if I wanted to get into a good college at 18. When I entered the adult world, I imagined what life would be like in my mid-twenties as a “full-grown” adult. I was cute. Still am, haha.

Birthdays are exciting times to reflect and also think about the next year. It’s another opportunity to “restart” and turn a new leaf. At 24, I’ve surpassed the wildest dreams I concocted for myself when I was younger.

Because I think it’s fun to share, here were my goals when I was a college freshman. When I was 18, I made these aspirations for age 25:

  • Be a senior finance analyst at a Fortune 500 company
  • Make $80,000 a year because I wanted to make six figures by 30
  • Own a little condo in the city
  • Pay off my student loans
  • Be completely financially independent from my parents
  • Be a strong, independent, career-driven woman

What amazing goals to have by 25. But I was also such a dreamer and didn’t think about what I needed to do to get to those points and also didn’t completely understand those goals. Some of the above are not in my control. Some of those were dependent on my work performance, the industry I was in, and many external factors.

Out of all those 18-year-old-Rae goals, the last one is what holds the most true and is what I have complete control in doing. I have the power to be strong. I have the capability to be independent. I have the will to be career-driven.

These past few weeks have been such a whirlwind for me. Some of you know my Starbucks story. I took the risk entering the corporate finance world again after choosing to leave Boeing my senior year of college and choosing instead to untraditionally work in commercial real estate.

I remember telling my family about this crazy 2016 time–telling them that yes, I have fulfilled your dream of working at a huge, well-known American company like Boeing, but you’ve also told me to follow my heart and create my own path. I told them to trust me. They’ve raised me well and I needed them to trust me. This is how I’ve been able to really push myself and achieve what I have. I am because of those two and the village that raised me.

I remember being maybe 7 or 8, following my mom around as she pursued being a realtor and work with home buyers and sellers and seeing her quote in her office that become etched in my memory:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

So after college, I started making my own trail. I had the confidence in my ability to lead my professional path and knew I had the foundation to take risks and experience new things. And new experiences, I have pursued in the past year. In the past year I have dived into three very different professional industries–commercial real estate, digital finance, and digital marketing.

All the while, I was coping with the death of my mother and her father, my grandpa Lu. I was happy, then I was extremely sad. Then I was laughing  then I was uncontrollably crying. I asked myself many times “Who the eff am I? What is happening to me?!”

How amazing to look back and see how much I have grown.

This past year has taught me how to react to new lows and how to get to those highs and pursue dreams past those achievable highs. I am ready for what 25 and beyond has in store for me. So as I approach this exciting and pivotal time in my life, I have come up with 25 things I have learned before turning 25. Thank you, Taylor Swift, for the inspiration. You’re a real MVP in my heart.

  1. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.

    • I was taught this lesson by a dear old friend who was looking out for me and helping me through the transition from high school in the comfortable Palos Verdes to college away from home in Seattle. I was scared but excited and always freaked myself out. He told me to calm down. Stop overthinking. He told me, “Raelene, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. You can’t do anything about that. You can only do what you have control over. That how you feel and how you react and how you think.” Thanks bud, happy to see you grow these past 7 years, too. Thanks for the life advice.
  2. Love is a two-way street.

    • We’ve all been there before. Where you’re in a relationship thinking you’ve done everything you can to show your love and you’re not getting the results you expected. This has happened in many relationships in my past. It’s all something I think we all go through at some point….If I do this big gesture, they should know that I love them and they’ll love me equally back, right? If I go out of my way to see them, then I should expect they’ll do the same, right? If I buy this for them because I am being thoughtful,  they’ll know I want them to do the same for me, right?
    • No. The answer is no. Love has no expectations and no boundaries. It’s the most frustrating experience to be in a relationship with unreciprocated love. But you’ll live and learn. Everyone has their own timelines and ways of showing and feeling love. The love languages are a real thing. Some people like gifts, some people prefer physical affection. Figure out what you need and what your partner needs. Timing is also everything. True love isn’t forced. It just happens. And when the puzzle pieces fit, it’s the most magical adventure ever.
  3. Don’t lose sight of the dream.

    • I can’t count the time I have rearranged my goals and created new ones for myself. However, I have always had a rough, malleable dream that I’ve always envisioned for myself and that is what I am in the pursuit of achieving. The road there is going to take a lot of grit, but I am excited for the moment where I can stand in that reality and be proud of how far I have come. So when you feel lost or feel purposeless, think about your dream. Hold onto it. Don’t lose sight of the dream!!!
  4. Find your village.

    • Gosh, this is what I am especially thankful for these past few months. Who are the folks from my different walks of life I can depend on for advice or to cheer me up or remind me why I am pursuing something? Who are my mentors, who are people I consider part of my village, who can I trust with my doubts, who will keep me accountable?
  5. Find your people.

    • Similar to the above but closer to the core. Who will know your deepest thoughts and will love you for you even if you’re a freaking hot mess? Who’s on speed dial? Who’s on your emergency contact list? Those are your people. Those are your forever friends. The people who become family and who you can depend on to pick up the phone or answer the door at any time of the hour. Thank you, my lovely humans, for being my people. Y’all know who you are.
  6. Everyone has a story. Be kind to others.

    • Most often in this social media influenced world, we encounter negativity and interact with people who are mean, angry, jealous, and unkind. Instead of giving them a “taste of your own medicine” be the bigger person and let it go. Or ask if they’re open for a conversation. It takes a lot of effort do this, but it will contribute to making this world a better place. We need to people in the world who can do this. Everyone has a story. Be kind to others.
  7. Know where you come from.

    • This has been crucial for me as my mom was the main storyteller in my life. She reminded me where I come from. How did I get to America? Who sacrificed before me to get me and my brother here? Who do I visit and where do I go when I travel back to the Philippines and re-discover my roots? I’ve been having to ask the questions and write the story myself as I adjust to life without her voice and knowledge but I take pride in who I am and where I come from. I am because of those before me. Thank you for your sacrifice.
  8. You can still be independent but also be in the relationship at the same time.

    • Just because you’re independent doesn’t mean that you need to be on your own. It means knowing and identifying as your own person without being attached to someone else. You can still ask for help. You can still be dependent on someone. Know what you need to stand tall and by yourself. Know what it means to not be held by someone and to be sure of who you are as a human being in this crazy world. Be free, my friend. Discover what it means to truly be free and independent.
  9. Bask in the sunlight when you are able because life doesn’t make those last forever!

    • I have learned many times over that the sun don’t shine foreva. It’ll come at intermittent times in your life and sometimes it’ll last a whole season and sometimes it’ll last for an hour. But when the sun does shine, enjoy it. Close your eyes and breathe the air and remember the feeling of sunshine on your now sun-kissed skin. I am a sun person and I need my sunshine to feel truly complete. So know that when the sun is outside, I am outside playing and when there is no sunshine, I am learning how to cope without it and discover new parts of myself and my environment until that moment comes again.
  10. Find your happy place.

    • I love this one. I am smiling knowing that I have my happy places solid. My happy place is in many places–dependent on my mood and what I need to serve myself. It’s where I get my favorite boba milk tea. It’s where I workout to get my angst and energy out. It’s where I meditate to feel grounded and flexible. It’s where I am warm and cozy and loved. It’s where I go on a run when I need to clear my mind and think. It’s where I can sing and not feel judged. It’s where I can laugh until my stomach hurts and my eyes cry happy tears. It’s where I feel at peace and I feel content.
  11. Discover what your base level is. What do you need to feel whole?

    • I have especially learned this in the past year. What’s my base level? For me, it means I get a workout in, eat my over-easy egg with furikake, listen to a song that makes me feel light, drink ice cold water, and get kisses from my dogs and my husband. That’s my base level. What’s yours?
  12. Keep the music going in your life. You need a melody to guide you when you’re lost.

    • I ignored this for a while. For a little bit, I lost what music meant to me. I forgot how it felt like to listen to a song and be like “DAT’S MAH JAM!” and sing a song in my car, hitting the high notes and be like “YOU GO RAELENE! YOU STILL GOT IT!” and dance with my friends and be like “YOU MOVE GURL, YOU MOVE!” Once I re-discovered my love for music and lyrics, I started to feel more like myself again. Not taking that for granted in the future! Sorry I forgot about you, music. But also thanks for always being there for me. Music has also been especially good to me when I feel like my mom is with me. Hi momma 🙂
  13. Time heals all wounds.

    • This past year has also shown me what incredible loss can do to people and a community and all I can say is, I trust that time will heal all wounds. Things will be said in hurt and anger and actions will be done with no thought to consequence. But it is what it is, and you just gotta do you until the right time comes around again. The world will keep turning and the clock will continue to tick.
  14. H8ers gonna h8!

    • Yo. Forreal. Let the haters hate. They’re probably going through a rough time in their lives and are projecting it on you. Try not to take things personally. Remember your village and your people and whose opinions you trust. Everything else is just noise. Don’t let the negativity consume you. Trust your process. I truly believe all humans at their core are capable of love and kindness but not always will that show, if ever. I hope they find what they’re looking for. We’re all out here just tryna function.
  15. We’re all in the pursuit of happiness.

    • Kid Cudi’s song became so popular for a reason. It’s relatable. We are all in the pursuit of happiness. What drives us? What ignites the fire within? What makes your soul happy? Choose that, do that. Understand that our peers are doing the same thing, too.
  16. Women must lift each other up and stop being so dang mean and judgemental.

    • I sometimes will catch myself making a quick judgement in my head and unfortunately sometimes it’ll come out. I am trying to be a better female and be a better woman for other woman. Now, more than anything I have realized why we need support and why we need each other. Lean in, start a conversation, and be open to others. We need each other so we can continue to be lifted to new heights.
  17. Finding your life partner, if that’s what you want to have, will be the best discovery of your life.

    • I am not saying everyone needs a life partner, but it’s been proven throughout the existence of life that we need another being to live a long and happy life. Whether that means getting a dog and living alone in the woods or spending time in the jungle doing animal conservation work, or being in a committed relationship, we need that support and comfort.
    • For me, finding John and growing with him these past four years have been so fulfilling. Everything seems right. With him, I am invincible and I know that if I fail, he will be there to catch me and hold me. Bless his patient heart because that man has been through hell and back after the hell I’ve experienced in grieving this past year. He’s seen it all and now we’ve come out of the ashes as a stronger couple. He’s my safety net and my partner and lover and someone who I know will stand next to me for life. Yay for us! I love you forever.
  18. Learn to grow. Learn to challenge. Learn to evolve.

    • I feel most fulfilled and most valued when I am challenged and rise to the occasion. Sometimes I’ll hit it out of the park and sometimes I’ll have a #epicfail. We’ve all been there. Pick yourself back up. Reflect why you failed and don’t do it again. If you did right, know what worked and figure out how to apply that method to future scenarios. This doesn’t apply to just the professional space. This also applies to the personal space as well. Continue to grow, challenge, and evolve. Feel the blood rushing through the yours veins and feel the energy you put out onto the world around you.
  19. You know, deep down, who your “day-ones” are. Keep them close.

    • When you encounter a rough patch in a relationship (this includes friendships), know why they’re in your life and why you’ve chosen them to be in your inner circle. They earned that spot and you earned a spot in theirs, too. Call those people when you have downtime. Check-in. Keep in touch. Keep that authentic relationship going. You owe that to what you have built together.
  20. Spend more on experiences not things.

    • As I get older, I realize more and more how happy and free I feel when I am experiencing with friends and with family. I promise to value those times and commit to doing more like that in my life. Experiences can me made out of nothing, too.
  21. Be courageous. Talk to someone if you need help, don’t hold it in.

    • Gosh, has this been such a help for me. I had so many people telling me to talk to someone at my lowest points but I ignored it and was prideful of how far I have gotten without needing to talk to someone. But once I did, I was so thankful and relieved. My story is so unique and I am so glad I can reliably share my stories with someone who will listen and engage when needed. Bless her heart. Talk to your friends. See a professional if you need to. They’re there for a reason.
  22. Being the “first” to do many life things doesn’t have to feel like a burden.

    • For a long time, I felt like being the oldest in my family meant I needed to do things  a certain way or I’d let them down. I also felt like doing the first in my friend group meant that I needed to keep up with the momentum I’ve built. Now, I’ve learned that it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to pause. There will always be someone better than you. There will always be someone who is further ahead than you. Try to focus on your journey and know that all of the crap you’ve had to sift through have made you who you are. I’ve done this best while pursuing my dreams and ambitions while also remembering my purpose and remembering my roots.
  23. Stay curious. Ask questions.

    • When in doubt, ask. Set your ego aside and just ask. The only thing holding you back is you. Stay curious and know when to be humble and ask. Humility is learned and can only be learned through experience.
  24. Celebrate and remember the little things because someday you’ll realize that those seemingly insignificant moments will pull you through.

    • Much like #9-#11, those sunshine-y and happy moments will be great reminders of where you’ve been and how to get back to a place like that again. For me, those little moments have been these:
      • Looking into John’s brown eyes and saying “I love you” for the first time
      • My dad pushing me when I first rode my bike with no training wheels
      • Kissing my mom on the lips when we went on our last shopping trip at the Tory Burch outlet. She also smiled and said “I love you anak” as she paid for our things. Sometimes I just remember her eyes and her mouth as she said that and that memory gives me a sense of peace when I miss her and want to remember her voice, her smile, and her beautiful spunky self.
      • Walking to my brother’s room when I got home from college and seeing our picture taped to his desk. I love you littleman! Always here to guide you.
      • Taking the photograph of my maternal grandparents smiling and laughing
      • The moment when my dog, Wonton, climbed onto my lap before we adopted her
      • Curling up with Charlie on the couch as a little puppy that fit in the crevice between my neck and chest
      • The feeling of the crowd cheering when I sang “Unwritten” at my high school graduation
  25. Find love in all things. Bloom with grace.

    • Self-explanatory. You got this!

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts on Wednesdays as inspiration finds me so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.

This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.

This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.

We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.


Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂

Beginning the Rest of My Life // Dec 2018

Good Vibes, Reflections





you haven’t felt yet.

give them time.

they are almost here.

— fresh


from nayyirah waheed


As I’ve been reflecting of what this post would become, knowing that my mother passed away a year ago on December 3rd, I’ve struggled to find a way to eloquently relay the feelings and thoughts I’ve had in the last year of adjusting to her being gone.

Thankfully I have my journal, my notes, books, audio books, and friends to help me organize the craziness of thoughts bouncing around my head as I accepted, lived, remembered, grieved, remembered more, mourned, grieved, and continued to live my life. I didn’t follow the typical stages of grieving but I felt a few of those moments so strongly that I had forgotten who I was and where I came from and who I wanted to be. Never in my life had I been so consumed by sadness and happiness at the same time that I needed to give myself hours and days and weeks to breathe.

But this is what it’s like to adjust and move on from such tragedy in life. You live in it, float in it, jump in it, and be in it, without choice. You have no choice but to just feel and be and figure it out.


”Just Go With It” – Chromeo, Oliver

My mom took her last breath the early afternoon of Sunday, December 3rd, 2017. She was 50 years young. She was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer that had metastasized to many parts of her body that prohibited even the simplest of movements like getting up from bed. After she got diagnosed, she simultaneously received radiation and chemo to treat the aggressive nature of the cancer and she almost beat it. She almost beat it for 15 months.

She went through emergency brain surgery to remove a tumor that took her and everyone who supported her, by surprise. She survived brain surgery and tried to beat the continuously growing tumors in her body due to hospitalization and inability to receive treatment for 8 weeks. For 8 weeks she fought, she got better, but unfortunately wasn’t able to conquer what was killing her.

Levy Olivares fought her very best. I was there to see it. Many were there to see it. I believe that she didn’t choose to join the Kingdom of her God, but simply let the pain she felt from her organs shutting down and lifted them up so she can be relieved and free of pain. Her heart then stopped and that was it. Slow to breathe, gently beginning to settle into the new life of being with the angels above.


Two days after the “Best Last Day” I was on the phone with my dad to talk about my mom’s current state. After Thanksgiving weekend, her condition started to drastically deteriorate. She had an infection and was showing early signs of liver failure.

That night, I went to my friend’s house to share this news. I told her that I had a feeling this was going to be it. I just had a feeling. Her liver was failing. What major organ was next? I had two days until I was back in LA again. I purchased a series of plane tickets as a gift to my mom so I’m with her. Thank goodness I did that.

As I packed my small 19” carry-on bag, I thought long and hard about what I should pack. Should I just pack for another weekend trip or pack for the end? I did both.

I packed for the weekend: two pairs of pants, three pairs of shirts, a pair of boots, and running shoes. I also packed for the end: an elegant black, boatneck Jones NY midi dress that I bought with my mom from Ross when I was working in wealth management and tan leather wedges and black and gold earrings from Tory Burch she bought for me on our last shopping trip just a few weeks before her brain tumor scare. I wanted to look put together and I also wanted to be prepared (hence the wedges for grass at the cemetery and dress with pockets for my phone and car keys). I also packed a pair of black Aritzia pants just in case I needed it for a night service (the vigil) and black Cole Haan kitten heels to match. How I planned for this at the time, I don’t know. I’m in awe that I even did this.

I arrived in LA Friday night, just 5 days after I saw her last. It was bad. She was fearful. She was tired. She was intubated and had a refrigerated blanket to keep her temp down. It was not good. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t do anything to “fix” her. I could only comfort her and be there with her, holding her hand. I could only give my dad hugs and give my brother kisses.


That Sunday, when I received the text from my dad stating that my mom experienced a heart attack, I already knew what I needed to do and how I needed to be but it’s truly in these last few months that I have slowly figured out how to be without her physically here.

Thank you to my Tita for being in the car with me while I swallowed the news, called my friends, and picked up my brother from a conference. Your presence with me as I received that text and gathered my thoughts and drafted my plan of action was so crucial to my handling of things thereafter.

Thank you to the family and friends who were already there, thinking that it was going to be just a normal hospital visit in the ICU. Thank you to my Tito for being there for my dad as he received the news that his wife’s heart has stopped beating.

Thank you to my Ninang, Ninong, and Tita for your countless car rides to and from the hospital—for being our sounding board when we had to make difficult decisions and for making sure she was never alone. It’s sad our roles ended that day but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being the best example of sibling love I have ever seen. Your dedication and love is inspiring and I’m proud to call you part of our village.

I am so thankful that when that December day came, our entire system was there to say our goodbyes. Her family was there to pray for her and be with her. Her friends were there to say their goodbyes. My friends were there to say how much her love for them impacted their lives. It’s amazing to think that when my mom joined the angels, she was never alone. She was loved and supported and cared for until the very end. She seemed to be at peace and that’s all we could wish for. Rest In Peace, my dear Momma. I’ll try to be a good cook for you and promise I’ll reach the heights you always wanted me to achieve in life and love.




“O” – Coldplay

Recently, I had a conversation with a close friend about dealing with what comes after.

The worst day of my life was not when she passed but when I realized the reality that I now lived in was a reality where my mom is no longer and never will be. That was this past September. It took me 9 months to get to that point and 10 months for me to wrap my head around what happened and think about how to be after carrying the weight of this forced reality with me.

It was so painful–the sadness, the anger, the fear, the questioning, the uncertainty, the acceptance that the woman who gave you life is no longer here. But damn, I got through it.

I am still going through it–but now with a sense of peace as I find ways of doing things that remind me of her versus not doing anything at all and feeling things that I know she would want me to feel versus not feeling anything at all.


“breathin’” – Ariana Grande

It is really quite amazing to see how humans and life forms respond to tragedy. Flight or fight kicks in. Instinct.

“How did you get through it, Raelene?”

“I don’t know. I just did what I knew I needed to do or what I thought was best.”

When I look back at everything I experienced the last two years, I get exhausted but I am proud of myself in being resilient and trying to adapt to the change.

Here’s the last two years in a nutshell:

1. I left corporate finance at Boeing and switched industries to commercial real estate brokerage.

2. I went to LA to take care of my mom for a summer after she got diagnosed.

3. I got engaged and we got married (!!!) John, if you’re reading this, I love you.

4. I adjusted to having my mom back and treated her like my best friend again and not as my mom who is sick and is my patient.

5. I watched my mom reach new heights then deteriorate and almost make it out.

6. I saw my mom’s last breaths and said my final goodbye.

7. My family worked together to plan her funeral and her celebration of life.

8. We celebrated our first Christmas without my mom in Seattle. And my dad and brother got a sweet dog named Chester 🙂

9. John and I celebrated our first year of marriage. A few months later, we had our wedding celebration in LA where 170 family and friends gathered to celebrate us both. My mom was there in spirit, she was everywhere 🙂

10. Left commercial real estate and embarked on a new adventure back in corporate America at Starbucks. Thank you Digital Finance team for ignighting my fire and being my breath of fresh air!

11. I traveled to Europe with my best friends, had a trip of a lifetime, remembered and experienced the feeling of joy, and reconnected with my mom at the Vatican for the first time since her death. The Italian woman next to me in the chapel gave me her tissues and she shared that she recently lost her dad too. We both cried.

12. Came back to Seattle and John and I bought a house in the suburbs. Goodbye to the city life! I also bought a Prius! Woot!

13. I started a new role at Starbucks in Digital Marketing, entering a completely different industry from the finance worlds I was familiar with for 5 years.

And here I am now. Still growing and learning and feeling. And adjusting.


“My Life” – ZHU

I have learned that life is all about adapting to the constantly changing environment around you. The world will always turn and life around you goes on. And sometimes you fall and get back up. And sometimes you reach new peaks and grow. I will always want to grow, but now I have learned to slow down and find solace in the falls because it reminds me of where I came from and where I want to be. Grief demands it and it’s part of the journey of moving on.

As I approach a new year, I challenge myself to continue to give myself space to breathe and think, while also acknowledge that the pain and sorrow is of the past and this is a new chapter. This is the beginning of the rest of my life. I will forever carry her heart in mine. I’ll continue to be a daughter and friend to my dad. I’ll continue to be an Ate and friend to my brother.

I look forward to taking my experiences from 2018–my growth year—and applying them all to make a better, stronger me.


“Best of Us Go Down” – Aquilo


Lastly, as I move on and leave the pain behind, I want to thank every single person who has reached out with support and love. These last few years, I have drawn strength from many of you, who have reminded me of my age, my humanity, and my needs as such.

Thank you for the dozens of prayer groups that held my mom in their thoughts, for these friends and strangers also gave my mom strength to overcome and fight.

Thank you for the friends and family friends who have become permanently etched in my heart as family. You are all so amazing and it brings me tears to feel your kindness even as my mom has passed. You are her fighters, someone’s hero, someone’s brother and sister.

Thank you to my friends for holding me in times when I couldn’t keep myself up. Thank you for crying for me when I couldn’t feel sadness and just felt anger and confusion. Thank you for loving me when I didn’t know who I was and unsure of how to find myself. Thank you for responding and for following up. Thank you for showing up. I love you forever for that.

To my husband, thank you for your unconditional love—for fulfilling the idea and turning it into something tangible. Out of choice, you always chose me and chose us. You believed that I will recover and will return to the woman who was full of life. Because of your love and support, I believed in myself. So thank you for never giving up, always forgiving me in times when I projected anger towards you and always asking how you can help. Thank you for letting me be me and accepting me as I am and for showing me joy and laughter when it was hard for me to see other than dim and darkness. I love you infinitely, now and forever. Here’s to the rest of our lives together as we approach the celebration of our second year of marriage!

As I close this chapter and enter a new one, I hope you’ll follow my journey of discovering self and experiencing the new. It’s quite weird to feel like I’m turning back the clock because for years I felt like I was a 40 year old in a 20 year old body. Now I can figure out how to be a normal 20-something and see what’s out there!


“show me” – San Holo


In loving memory of Librada “Levy” Balagtas Olivares

01.18.67 – 12.03.17


The Origination of Monday Musings // Oct 2018

Good Vibes

monday musings 1

Around January 2014 I got a text from my mom saying that she experienced a minor stroke. I clearly remember my environment while reading those words, saying she had a stroke. I was staring at my phone, getting tunnel vision, on a hill climber machine at SeattleU’s gym and I tried to act normal with my gym buddies as the realization of this medical scare sank in.

As soon as I got back into my dorm room, I called my mom. I asked her how it happened. I wanted to feel included and make her feel like I was there for her. It was so long ago that I don’t really remember our conversation, but I do remember the fear and guilt I felt.

After that blurry conversation, I called my best friend from high school.  Both our moms have had health and medical issues for as long as we could remember so we found comfort in sharing these moments with one another. I remember telling her how guilty I felt that I didn’t have the best relationship with my mom and that I wasn’t there for my mom during this time. I talked about my fear that if a stroke happens again, she could be unrecognizable and turn into a “vegetable”. I understand now how insensitive that word is, but I was 19 at the time, I didn’t know what to think yet.

More phone calls to my best friends were made. There were tears and minor freak outs of thinking “it could’ve been worse” and “I wasn’t there” and “my mom needed me”. So after that night, I started talking to my mom everyday and that’s truly when our mother/daughter relationship began.

Around this time I was juggling three jobs while trying to enjoy college life as a 19-year old sophomore. I was working as an finance intern in a wealth management firm after kicking ass my first summer, I was also working in the admissions office, and was also working as a Resident Assistant in SeattleU’s party-building, Campion Hall.

With those jobs, I was proud of my financial independence and continued doing well in school, finding new hobbies and enjoying my funtivities. I was also in a relationship for almost a year and we were both RA’s trying to balance the professional and romantic relationship as two young adults.

The stress of everything around me started compounding after hearing my mom’s news and it was the first time I ever really felt loneliness and the first time I felt like I had the world on my shoulders. Welcome to the adult world, I thought.

Prior to this January scare, I was doing great. I felt balanced, I felt secure, and I felt supported. I was going to the gym regularly, doing tabata classes and discovering the magical practice of yoga. I was also reading books from my finance/sales internship that talked about success and prioritizing yourself so you can help others.

The most applicable book I had read when my mom informed me of her stroke was a book called “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale. This short book focused on the thought “you become what you think about”.

If you think that you are going to be sad and poor, you will be sad and poor. But if you really push yourself to think harder and be bolder, you will be the great human you aspire to be. Cliche, I know. But it’s the power of thought that can get you through anything. The mind is so amazing and fascinating that way.

I introduced this idea of “you become what you think” to my mom. I told her, “Mom, you probably had this stroke because you’ve been over-exerting yourself and not taking the time to set goals and think about what your purpose is.” She agreed. She was trying to get back into work and get out of a rut. She just had a hysterectomy performed a few months before in September that was painful to recover from. She felt limited and stuck and her negative thoughts got the best of her. She let her thoughts consume her with self-doubt, self-pity, and sadness.

Every morning thereafter, I texted her a quote or something positive to inspire her. I shared that I did yoga on Wednesday mornings and it really helped me cope with the stress of working three jobs, balancing a relationship, and also trying to be a good RA for my residents. It was time for myself to reflect and have a well-deserved mental break.

Alas, this resulted in my coined “Wellness Wednesday”. I kept it to myself at first, then started sharing it with others who also felt the stress of life. Every Wednesday, I would make the extra effort to do something for myself. Whether it’d be morning yoga or a long run to Lake Washington or a walk to Molly Moon’s for a split scoop of lavender and earl grey ice cream in a cup or a waffle cone for an extra dollar.

This positive thinking and daily conversation lifted my mom’s spirits. She started to strengthen her faith with God and bought a book with daily devotions. She’d share pictures with me of quotes she’d find interesting and meaningful and also tell me the good parts of her day that she was proud of.

The power of positive thinking is so important, especially during a time when it seems like things are falling apart. I truly started learning the lesson of the glass half empty or half full during one of the darker times of my young adult life.

Yes, it got exhausting trying to be there mentally for my mom, everyday, but it was worth it. Anything I can do to prevent her from another medical scare and to make her mentally stronger, I did.

Eventually, she turned it around after taking the time to take care of herself and she started sharing her positivity with others. She called this her “Monday Musings…” and she posted quotes and photos that she resonated with and thought would resonate with others.

Levy’s Monday Musings became a part of her identity and it was something she carried with her to her final resting place. When she was in and out of intense medical trials or personal troubles, she would look forward to the time when she’d be well enough to share Monday Musings with others.

She posted Monday Musings everyday for almost a year and half until she got suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in June 2016. Then it got silent for a few months and she came back online that November with a new zest for life.

This zest was infectious, everyone who saw her posts about Monday Musings, her cooking, and her selfies LOVED it. And she loved all of you for giving her that sense or purpose. I know it meant so much to her that she could uplift others who were struggling as she once or sometimes did

Unfortunately, the last Monday Musings she posted was on Monday, October 2, 2017. This was the Monday after we buried my Grandpa Lu. I say this to exemplify how much she cared about these posts to her friends and family. During my Grandpa’s funeral, I could tell something was wrong and she was off. She was complaining about an intense migraine that wouldn’t go away. It persisted for two weeks, even with medication, but she continued saying she was okay and that it will pass.

As I type this, I am shaking at the thought of the final week of my mom as a relatively normal human in the outside world. This was before we discovered the massive brain tumor. Before she was attached to tubes. Before she lost her speech. Before she spoke her last words to me. Before she died, two and half months later.

The days leading to the knowledge of the brain tumor will come in another post because I want this post to focus on Levy’s Monday Musings and the strength it gave her and others. I just wanted to also share the gravity of that last post because it’s eerie and sad…saying “last” of something or someone who is no longer here.

ANYWAY (deep breath), this was her last Monday Musings:

No photo description available.

She posted this because wanted to focus on her recovery and upcoming infusion. She had a life in front of her planned out and she just needed to continue moving forward towards the land of being cancer-free.

So to those who are reading this and following my journey as I share and reflect, whatever you may be dealing with, try to focus on the good. Try to envision who you want to be and don’t lose that vision. Whether you want to be a hip grandma taking your kids to Disneyland or a 20-something working your ass of to earn a promotion, see the dream. Make the dream a reality.

I always tell my mentees: once you see yourself in the future as the person you want to be, don’t ever lose sight of the dream!! Work harder, play harder, and stay humble. Be kind and the universe will be kind back to you.

Til next Wednesday, friends. I hope you took at least a little part of your day to give yourself a pat on the back for being being present and for being you. GO YOU! 🙂


Happy Wellness Wednesday!

I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts every Wednesday so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.

This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.

This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.

We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.


Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂