Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cozumel, You Stole My Heart

Each year, my dear and I make it a habit to travel to faraway places neither of us have visited yet.  Although every vacation we spend together has been quite memorable, our trip to Cozumel last week has truly stolen our hearts.  I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this island off of the coast of Mexico really is.  Cozumel rests across from Playa del Carmen which is on the east coast of Mexico.  You can even take a 30 minute ferry back and forth from both of these vacations spots. 

I wanted to share with my readers some of our new memories in order to give you a sneak peek into the boundless appetite of adventures, food, beauty and fun we acquired while planting our feet around this impeccable island. 

Before I share my photos with you, I wanted to stress the fact that Cozumel is honestly our new favorite vacation spot.  We've been all over Mexico, including the west coast of it, California, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and so on... but honestly, Cozumel is an unforgettable gem.  I highly recommend this island to those who wish to seek out new adventures while feeling safe, who like to snorkel and dive wherever they please, who love exotic views and scenery, and most of all... who love to eat at mom and pop dives while still having the luxury of fine dining which surround the hotels and touristy part of downtown. 

The one thing we didn't do, regretfully, was rent a jeep and drive around the entire island.  Towards the end of our trip, we learned that so many vacationers do this and love, love, love it!  Next time, we are renting a jeep for a day or two and seeing what the other side of Cozumel has to offer.

We began our vacation, officially, when we landed in the Houston airport, better known as a "hub." There are tons of connecting flights which venture out to the Caribbean and Mexico from here.  We had a four hour layover (awful, I know) in Houston's hub.  After having breakfast at a diner inside the airport, I decided to take advantage of the time and get a long walk in since I didn't exercise yet.  My iPod clocked my walk at 3.25 miles inside the airport.  It felt awesome!

When we landed in Cozumel, we met other tourists who were staying at our all-inclusive hotel, the Park Royal.  Those tourists love Cozumel so much that they make it a yearly trip and stay for a whopping 10 days!  The dear and I thought this was crazy but now, we totally understand why.  Next year, we plan on staying for a full 10 days.

This is the Park Royal All-Inclusive where we stayed

A view of the two infinity pools over looking the ocean where we snorkeled everyday

Now I'm going to share some photos of our incredible vacation... Enjoy!

This is me snorkeling with the big blue fish.  They are quite aggressive when they see you have food for them.  The others are a lot nicer!

More snorkeling.  I would highly suggest bringing your own snorkel gear and water shoes if you love this activity as much as we do.  There is a lot of coral on the edges of Cozumel and for this reason, you see a great amount of beautiful and exotic fish.

This was one of my favorite fish to swim alongside.

This shot was taken by the dear when we went snorkeling off of the waters of a dive restaurant we stumbled upon.

Here we are swimming under caves in Playa del Carmen.  We took the ferry over and went on an XPlore adventure.  We also zip lined through forests and water as well as drove ATVs but the camera died before we got to those places.
Pretty cool, right?!
This is a view from a dive we found and went snorkeling right off its edge.  We also ate really good grouper and guacamole there after we came up from the water.
This was such a sweet fish off of that little dive restaurant we found.  The other big ones kept hassling us for food but we managed to swim away where we found him=)
This is the lobby of our hotel.  We were waiting for a cab to head into town to find some real local Mexican food.
This hole in the wall we found is called Los Seras and in this photo is the main chef.  They make some really yummy pork, chicken and steak tacos.
I'm very happy with my food.
Iguanas were all over our hotel... very cute but extremely jumpy!
A bird flew into our room and didn't want to leave!  It was really neat looking.
Almost sleeping on my dear's finger.
Here we are, waiting for another cab to venture into town and find a new dive taco place to dine.
We found one called El Pique.  This was by far, the best place we had been to for pork tacos... out of this world!!
It was definitely a dive but had the tastiest tacos... other than Don Sirloin in Playa del Carmen.
Here we are at another one of our favorite restaurants, Habaneras.  We met the owner there and when I told him my children's book author name, he looked me up on his little iPad.  Two minutes later, he was shaking my hand and telling me how honored he was to have me at his establishment.  I know what your thinking... only in Mexico! But hey!  It felt good to have a few moments of glory before reality hit once I got home, ha! Oh well... I will get there someday!
This is my new Mexican abuela.  She is so sweet!  We bought a bunch of pastries and fried goodness from her cart two nights in a row.
We met a really nice group of people on our vacation and headed into town with them one of the nights. 
This is beef tongue taco!  I know, sounds disgusting, right?  Well, it was, ha!  Everyone seemed to like it but I thought it tasted like liver.
The owner of this restaurant (the guy with crazy eyes) visited Cozumel 15 years ago and after one visit, moved down there for good.  There were a few other people we spoke to who did the same thing.  That is me in the background with the funny little Mexican headband on my head=)
This is my dear and me in one of the infinity pools of our hotel.
If you have never tried this, you absolutely must!  It's called a Fish Spa and you soak your feet in the aquarium while tiny fish eat your dead skin!  Sounds gross, I know! It really tickles and leaves your feet feeling extremely soft once the fish are done with their meals=)
This was my reaction when I first dipped my feet in the tank, ha!
That's it for the dear and me!  I hoped you enjoyed seeing some of our beautiful memories and think about making Cozumel your next destination!  You won't be sorry.
A little note to my beloved readers, friends and family,
The Liver Life Walk 2014 will be held in Philadelphia on September 27th.    As some of you already know, my mother received a liver transplant the day after Christmas in 2012.  She would have died that following January if she didn't receive such an irreplaceable organ.  My sisters, aunts, mother and I will be walking in this year's Liver Life Walk. 
This organization raises money and awareness to help fight against one of the fastest growing public health concerns, liver disease.  There are currently 30 million Americans living with this disease and sadly, some don't even know it.  Not to mention, many will die from it.  This means 1 out of 10 people are walking around with this horrible illness. 
If you would like to donate to our cause, we would greatly appreciate it.  Anything helps, even if it's only a few dollars.  If you are unable to donate, then please help us raise awareness by spreading information about this walk to ensure people how important it is to help put an end to liver disease.  It is a very sad and unbearable sickness to endure. 
Here are both of our pages where you can find more information on how to donate and sponsor either one of us. 
My mother's participation page:  Ceal Webber
My participation page:  Gina Stoneheart (my real name will be shown on my participation page)
Thank you my beautiful friends, family and readers!  I wish you all a week of love and creativity.  Sorry if I am late catching up to your blogs.  I'm looking forward to visiting your wonderful writing again! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Finding Refuge in Thank You Cards, Vacations, and Books

Sometimes, during our bleakest withdrawals from social media, author networking, platform building, and most importantly, our passion, writing, we are given these unquestionably epic reminders about our presence and goals within this business.  It’s a cruel world out there, but in here, inside the heads of the performers, authors, writers, and influencers, we escape from the things that bind us to reality by engaging with our mind and getting lost within our imagination.

I must admit, social media can really drag me down sometimes.  I often feel torn between my time spent on Twitter, Facebook, the numerous blogs I love to read and comment on, and promoting while trying to spend time with friends and family or even enjoy everyday life.  Nonetheless, we all must hop in the band wagon; even if that means dragging our feet sometimes.

BUT here’s the kicker, in order to live my life to the fullest and never feel bad about the way I juggle my time, I almost always choose my author work over anything else.  Unless it’s a family event or vacation I’m submerging myself into, I stay focused on what ignites the energy inside of a permanent presence which can only be captured by my art.  I live and breathe through writing.  It penetrates my soul and pierces every single chord strung to an evanescence of my mere existence.  

And even though my heart and mind long to hold this talent always, I still have those dog days.  You know them… the days when you had enough with promoting and social media.  You send out countless tweets, host tons of blog tours, hook up with some fantastic reviewers for your release and other books, but still, the sales are not moving the way you long for on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. 

The reviews may be there but the sales and ranking, well, let’s just say we might be lucky if we can afford a fancy new pen and journal to write our boundless tales in.  Or maybe treat a co-worker to the 99 cent menu over at Wendys and if we are really fortuitous, maybe splurge on one single block of some fancy imported Spanish cheese accompanied by a bag of Stacy’s multigrain pita chips. 

And I know what you’re thinking… “Stop whining and get over it!  This is what this industry entails and you knew this once you thrust yourself down the rabbit hole of the unknowing which eventually led you to the knowing.”  Trust me, I tell myself this all of the time.

After the workshops for my children’s book author work wrapped up several weeks ago, I was feeling like I was on top of the world.  I can’t even begin to tell you how moving it is to be in a classroom and have students look up to you for mentorship and advice.  I felt proud to be an author; especially the kind who constantly tries to give back to the community by offering free services for those districts who can’t afford to have authors come spend time with them. 

When I received another package in the mail from one of the schools I delivered workshops to, my bleak eyes brightened with an anticipation you can’t even imagine.  I was suddenly lifted out of my dog days of loathing in networking and promoting.  My energy was ignited again as I opened the package and read 15 "Thank You" letters.  Here are just a few:



No matter how many books I sell or don’t sell on Amazon, as long as I am invited into the lives and dreams of these children, then my spirit is rewarded in more ways than I have ever dreamed of.  Whenever I receive an email from a child who I visited and they thank me for my time spent with them, it truly creates a new chord to the violin constantly being strung inside of my heart.  Whenever I feel the dog days of social media coming on, I just have to look into my heart and hear those sounds as they are continuously grow louder and louder with every chord being created.

We will always have them but it is whether we choose to reflect or be saddened by those dog days.   Thankfully, I was sent this awfully inspiring reminder of who I am and what my presence means to these kids and their dreams. 

Many of them wish to be authors and illustrators when they grow up but don’t think it is possible to become a J.K. Rowling or author a Christopher Paolini.  And this is where I step in to tell them, “Don’t ever think this way.  Keep writing, keep those journals and someday, you will become an author.  If you have a story to tell, you will find a way to tell it.  Never give up and just know how uniquely individual each one of you and your writing really are.  And most importantly, find your voice and stay true to it.” 

They also sent me a beautiful brown journal because they know I carry them around with me everywhere, often purchasing them in stores like Barnes and Nobles or Target:

Do you ever experience those dog days of social media?  Are there times when you wake up and don’t even want to open the computer because you know how many emails are waiting for you and how much promoting has to be done?  What do you to conquer days like this?
I’m leaving for Cozumel this Saturday and will be gone for a week.  Expect me back here in the blogosphere in three weeks.  I will be reading “Silverhills” by Sandra Cox and “Soul Cutter” by Lexa Cain on the plane and beach.  I've also added "Reborn" by Cherie Reich and "The Backworlds by M. Pax to my TBR list.  I will be looking forward to the upcoming releases of "Into the Fire" by Kelly Hashway, "30 Seconds" by Chrys Fey, and "Soulless" by Crystal Collier. 

I recently read “Moonless” by Crystal Collier and if you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you do so.  It was thought-provoking and engaging with such an original plot that I couldn’t help but to fall in love with Crystal’s writing.
See you all back here in a few weeks!