July Woman of the Month

This month, I wanted to highlight a woman who I feel is a lot like a typical working mother...except that she has lived through two strokes all before the age of 35. I feel like her story touches on many different areas that are very relatable to many people and I hope that it inspires you through wherever you are in life.

I would like to introduce you to July’s Woman of the Month - Crystal Avila of Buena Park, CA

 💙 Sonia G. 

📸 IG @krop_photography

Sonia: Crystal, tell me a little about who you are today.

Crystal:  I am 35 years old, married with 4 beautiful children. I currently work as a realtor and I am loving every moment of my life!

Sonia: Give me a glimpse into how your life was.

Crystal:  I met my husband Mike when I was 17 through our sisters, We had our first child at the age of 20. I always had jobs in between children but nothing I loved. I walked around with the feeling of inferiority.  I felt left out because everyone knew what they wanted to do and were successful.  I felt as if I was left behind since I had a family so young.  I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life, and I really didn’t feel that the jobs that I had were for me. That’s when I decided to go back to school to figure out what I wanted to do, so I chose to go to Cal State Fullerton. Within 5 long years I walked out of CSUF with a Bachelor of Science in Human Services.

As soon as I graduated with my degree, I knew it was time to join the workforce again.  I applied at two places, the first a marketing firm that was yet again another cubicle job putting my head down working like a robot. The second job I applied for was at Revolve Clothing. This opportunity was closer to home so I went to an interview to see how it went. I immediately fell in love! I worked in the fashion studio and I saw people who worked there that were just like me. I really couldn't even imagine that a job could be so intriguing.  Every where I looked there was fashion. I felt the creative soul inside come alive again.  Although, it was not in my area of study there was no denying the passion, fun, and creativeness I felt inside. I began working for the Men’s division at Revolve and it was fun, I learned that you can be creative and still have a business side.  I didn't need to conform to a box to be successful.  It gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself. From that day on I decided to be happy and never work at a place that wasn’t for me again.  There is no feeling like loving what you do.  I can honestly say I never understood that until I felt it inside.

Life was going pretty good, I’m happy in life and so here comes baby number four.

My pregnancy went well. I labored at home and felt so at peace and happy to be pregnant. Out of all my pregnancies, this was the first time I felt I was able to enjoy being pregnant because it seemed the other ones were during difficult times.

Sonia: When would you say the pregnancy changed?

Crystal: The day I went in for my final check in for my pregnancy is when things became different. During a weekly test the babies movements were very minimal. I was immediately rushed into hospital and they ruptured my bag.  Originally, I had decided that I didn’t want drugs and was very specific on how I  wanted to labor. After 6 hours I gave in and took epidural. The doctor inserted the needle three times with great difficulty due to some scoliosis. It was so painful that I began to cry... I tried to get the doctor to stop, but he was head strong. Once the epidural was complete I was laid back to try and take a nap. The nurse checked me and she gave me the news that I was crowing and we went straight into pushing. 

This was the moment I felt things had changed.  I couldn't feel a thing and was pushing as much as I could. 

After the baby was born, I had a headache but disregarded the pain because I felt it was because my body was recovery from recently having a baby. The headache pain kept coming and going.  I wrote off the headaches and neck pain because I was nursing. I kept moving with my routine.  I started taking Tylenol, then ibuprofen to help ease the pain and they did help but the head ache kept lingering. I went 13 days doing this because I was trying to push it away, thinking it wasn’t a big deal.  Which as women mothers especially we tend to do. 

I felt like as a mom, I had to push through..too many people were depending on me...my kids, my husband, work, chores, etc. I thought that I needed to be the last one eat and sleep...I was always go go go. I disregarded the signs my body had been giving me.  Something was brewing inside.  I didn't  make time to rest I had one motive and that was to be a mom and keep moving.   

On the thirteenth day, I remember waking up like just another day.  However, when I woke up the room was spinning, I tried to sleep it off but that didn’t change it. The room kept spinning and I began to sweat what felt like buckets of water and started to throw up.

I glanced over at my youngest son Elijah (2 years old) and realized my vision is so blurry that I was seeing three of him and stars. I knew I was going to faint so I called 911.  I told them I had two small babies and they assured me that they were on their way. I called my mom and sister but no answer. I felt like I had the weight of a ton of brinks on my shoulders which caused me to fall down. At this point I was on the floor about to faint with the worst head ache of my life.  I remember being so confused and knew it wasn't good.  I almost felt like I was going to die.

My mom called back and I had just enough strength left to tell her I was going to faint. I had her call on speaker and she heard the paramedics arrive so my mom yelled from the speaker phone to the fire department at my front door to "come upstairs" where I was. I was taken to the ambulance on my way to the hospital, but I had to leave my babies with the police and social workers.

They diagnosed me with the flu on the spot but they didn’t know that I really had just had a stroke. I arrived at the hospital and was diagnosed with postpartum headaches. I sat in triage for 8 hours and my headache kept getting worse. The head pain was worse than my worst migraine so my mom demanded a CAT scan.  At that point they just classified me as a new mom with possible flu and postpartum head aches.  About 5 minuets after the CT a whole team showed up in my room to confirm our worst nightmare.They simply said my CT was abnormal.  Looking back I know I was so critical at that point they didn't want to alarm me.  I had torn two vertebral arteries and suffered a stroke. My left artery was 30% severed and my right artery where the stroke occurred was severed 90%. 

I was rushed to USC Keck Hospital to the Neurological ICU. They put me through so many test to try and figure out how something so severe could happen.  From CTs, MRIs, an Angiogram, a spinal tap, genetic testing, and countless blood test.  All to connect the dots being that I was healthy, young, just had a baby, and had no previous health issues.

After 2 weeks of observation I was Ok'd to go home and continue resting and most of all bond with my infant.  I was home for 1 day on countless medications and I suffered the second stroke. This time when I went back to the hospital I was deemed detrimental. I was treated as a “high alert”. Unfortunately, I indeed suffered another stroke in front of my children and worst of all my artery tore more.  

During all the chaos of the hospital again.  In so much pain I chose to imagine myself in a happy place.  As Im imagining my self out of my body out of the pain and chaos I see my grandma who had passed 3 years prior. I saw her smiling down a light isle. I felt that I was potentially dying. I wanted to join my grandma because she seemed so happy, peaceful and I missed her.  Just then I heard a strong “NO” in my inner ears. A deep mans voice.  I opened my eyes and I asked the people around me if they heard and nobody knew what I was talking about.  I know this was God. I am convinced that God was telling me that it wasn’t my time. I was overcame with peace and I knew I was gonna be okay.  Even though the doctors had just told my husband things didnt look good for me.  I wasn’t scared anymore. From that day, I have lived everyday happy, and in faith.  Ill never forget the feeling I had at my worst of knowing I was going to be Okay.  I’m not afraid of anything anymore, not even death.  I was in the hospital for close to a month.  I've never been so glad to be home with my family. 

Sonia: Some warning signs to look out for:

Crystal: I had many of the typical Stroke and Vertebral Artery dissection symptoms:

—————————————

•Dizziness (balance issues)

•Vomiting

•Blurred Vision

•Severe head ache

•Muscle weakness

•Rapid Eye movement

It has not be an easy journey to recovery. I had to be patient with myself. I had to slowly walk again, I would forget, I couldn't remember things, I couldn’t be alone or drive for three months. I feel like the hardest out of all of them was that I couldn’t carry my daughter for almost a year. I had a weight restriction.  This killed me inside.  Thankfully, I had such strong support from my family and friends.  From driving me around, making me laugh, helping me shop at the market, listening me cry out of frustration, cleaning my house, bringing dinners to my family, to loving me.  I couldn't have made it through the scariest time in my life without them. 

When I was in the hospital I was told how rare it was what I went through and that I actually survived. Once I was able to use my phone and do some research I realized that there were thousands out there with the exact same stories! Some with torn arteries and some  that  experienced a only a stroke. I am now part of a couple Facebook support groups. I always will try and tell people what happened to me because in a blink of an eye my whole life was changed forever.  At times I still cannot believe what happened to me.  Its important to know that you're not alone when you're going through difficult times.

I took about 2 years of taking it easy which is something I never had done before.  I wanted nothing more than to be with my kids.  We did play dates, went to the library, laughed, and I wanted nothing more than to love on them.  During all of this I decided to leave my job in fashion and love life.

Sonia: How your life is now?

Crystal: I really feel in my heart that I needed this life change. Now I don’t get stressed or worried about things like I would have in the past. I realize that I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I see things differently along with life and nature,  I see beauty in so many things now. 

I prayed and prayed for God to show me what was next in my path.  That was something I never did before.  I've never felt in tune with God and never felt so grateful for the breath in my lungs.  This past new year I finally felt mentally strong.  I felt like a better version of my old self.  I knew that I wanted to go back to work but had some criteria this time.  I wasn't going to rush into anything.  I prayed and waited.  One day it just hit me like a ton of bricks.  I knew I needed to work in real estate along side my best friend.  I knew that it was a career that I could be creative, analytical, and most of all myself.  It was very important for me to make a conscious decision as to what my next steps were going to be. I knew God was pointing me in the right direction.   With that being said its one of the best decisions Ive ever made and am so grateful for being given the opportunity to shine.

My final thoughts:

Women and Men please slow down and listen to your body whether that is to Rest, Read a Book, Take a Nap, or whatever your body needs.  I ignored my bodies signs that something wasn't ok for days.  Women - Take time to heal after you have a baby all around - Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Also, most importantly if  you have a severe headache after having a baby you MUST go to the hospital right away!

Secondly, be grateful for every moment we are granted.  Life can change in the blink of an eye.  I now choose to be a light to people and am a walking miracle. 

Thank You Sonia for Choosing me to be able to bring awareness to Labor Complications, Young Stroke/VAD Survivors, and the Grace of God.

My favorite verse that I cling to now is 2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.


 

IMG_0348.JPG
IMG_0352.JPG
IMG_0356.JPG

June Woman of the Month

For the month of June, I wanted to spotlight a woman who I feel is the essence of what it means to be a strong woman. One who has truly taken the things in her life that should have kept her down but in turn, decided to remain focused and press on.

💙 Sonia G.  

📸 IG @moralesartistry  

June’s Woman of the Month is Vera Martinez of Eastvale, CA:

Sonia: Hi Vera, tell me about your story:

Vera: I was born in Texas in 1958, then my parents moved to California six months after I was born. My parents did all they could to  raise me with love and values. But even thought I was raised in the church where I was taught that having sex before marriage was sin, I did what I wanted to do and ended up pregnant at 17 years old.

Me and my boyfriend at the time went to a free clinic and they told me my options, keep the baby or have an abortion without my parents knowing. I was told that if I had an abortion then my life would go back to normal.  But I felt I had already made one mistake and didn’t want to make another one, so I had the baby, my son without a second thought.

My then boyfriend became my husband and together we raised our son. About eight years later after our son, we were given another gift from God, a beautiful little girl.

I gave my life to the Lord in 1995 and decided that my family was going to be my first priority. During our daughter’s high school years, I began homeschooling her and would drive her to college classes during her senior year. I wanted to be there for her and make sure that she knew she had my support.

Around the time that I finished homeschooling my daughter, my parents became ill and needed care. Without hesitation I was there for them. I cared for them until the very end. I’m thankful that I was able to get to know them better and I thank God for that time he gave me with them.

After my children were out of the house, my hearts desire was to still help people.  I decided to sign up to become a foster family.  

One day, I got a call from a social worker and asked if we wanted to foster a couple of teens.  At first, my husband really didn’t want because he wasn’t sure how it would go,  but he said he would pray and go with me to the meeting with the social worker.

When we came out of the meeting I was like crying, I guess I didn’t think about a child have such a hard life with so many obstacles at such a young age. I always thought that they were brought up in a loving home like I was brought up. Soon after that, we were given the opportunity to foster a couple of kids.  We were even able to help one fulfill her dream of graduating high school.  It was good, but it was also emotionally difficult. Two of our former foster children have grown and still keep in touch with us. 

Not getting my diploma was one of my biggest regrets. 40 years after I was suppose to I decided it was time to finish what I started before and go back to school to get my high school diploma. With the support from my husband kids, family, and friends I graduated!

If I could share a lesson in life that I learned it would be to trust the Lord no matter how hard it is. God will always work it out for his good. Life is not easy but continue to follow the Lord and he will direct your path and give you His peace along the way.


 

IMG_0216.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

Just Another CaliGirl

Can I just say that March Madness is a real thing.... we apologize for not being able to do a March Woman of the month. Life has thrown us some unexpected curl balls, but we are back and excited to continue on this journey of discovering Empowering Women!

0K8A3403.jpg

This April we would like to spotlight the owner of CaliGirl. CaliGirl is a beach inspired jewelry & clothing line created by Miss Carolyn Jean, also known as CJ. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet CJ through a mutual friend. It wasn't until last summer though that I was really able to connect with her on both a business and personal level. Early last summer I put together a beach shoot in Huntington Beach and was in serious need of wardrobe help! I instantly thought of the CaliGirl line and reached out to CJ. She immediately said yes! During the shoot, Carolyn and I totally hit it off and I left the shoot feeling inspired by her as a fellow female business owner. Before long we were meeting up regularly to discuss different business ideas and have developed a great friendship in the process. 

Today, I have the pleasure of doing a little Q&A with CJ. As someone who has been in the Small Business Industry for the last 10 plus years, I believe we all can learn a little something from her experience. She has been through some crazy ups & downs that could have completely stirred her off from continuing her business, but chose not too. Let's start...

CJ, thank you for being a part of our Woman of the Month project. Tell our readers a little about yourself.   

Well my name  is Carolyn Jean, that's where Cj comes from. My mom, sister and I all have Southern California names... I love it! I have a big heart for people and I love Jesus. Along with Caligirl, I am very actively involved in my community and church. I'm actually a counselor at my church and apart of many healing ministries. It's exciting to bring life to people and help get them back to living life with joy.

I have a Master of Science Degree in Kinesiology Pedagogy and a passion to educate people about fitness & nutrition. On any given day you can catch me running outside, catching some morning rays, or creating a fun workout for my clients. 

So CaliGirl, what was it that inspired you to start this business? 

After many years of working in education as a teacher, it was time for  change in my life. I have always been a very creative person. It is very important to me to be in a career where I have fun with my creativity and bless people..... and this is where Caligirl emerged.

What has been one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in owning your own business?

I don't even know where to start with this question, because there are hundreds of obstacles in owning your own business. The number one thing right now would be not to allow the economy to affect you personally.  You have to stay positive in everything and you cannot allow situations or things to bother you. #1, if you allow criticism or a decline in sales to bother you, it will affect the way your business is managed. #2, it will affect your creativity. Your creativity is precious. Creativity allows your business to shine and flourish in ways others do not.  If your business lacks in creativity it will be difficult for it to stand out and be special. #3, as a small business owner you are in charge of everything. You have to keep your mental attitude upbeat. For example, I take dance classes weekly. Any fun activity or hobby that keeps you happy and positive is always a good idea. If you love to run, put your running shoes on and go for a run first thing in the morning. If you love to draw, join a local art class. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing make it a part of your life weekly. This applies to everyone in every field of work. It is good to keep a balance and do what ultimately enjoy. 

What is it that motivates you to keep growing the CaliGirl brand?

As I said before, I have a big heart for people and I have awesome and loyal customers. I get emails and calls from people who call me for every birthday, holiday and sometimes I have customers who just want to talk about life. Recently, one of my customers that I have had for 7 years started a non-profit organization called Vision for Hope. This organization consists of her going into the jungle of Quinto, Ecuador and meet with families to donate reading glasses. The people in this village do not have any materials, let alone reading glasses. In some cases, this is the first time they have ever seen what eyewear looks like. Caligirl is now a supporter of this non-profit organization. Along with new eyewear, they also have Caligirl jewelry that inspires them. It's so amazing to be able to be a part of. This is just one of the many reasons why I love and continue to grow my Caligirl brand.

If you can give one piece of advice to young girls thinking of starting their own business, what would it be?

Honestly I would say to start journaling and getting your ideas and dreams flowing.  Before you know it those dreams will turn into a reality for you. When you want to do something NOTHING will get in the way of you chasing your dreams. The #1 key advice the I can give is to always BELIEVE in yourself!!

 

CJ, thank you again for your willingness to share your life and business experiences with all of us.  You truly are the definition of a true Boss Babe! You inspire me and everyone you come in contact with! We can't wait to see what's in store next for CaliGirl! 

Want to learn more about CaliGirl?? Follow her @caligirlbycj

For more photos fro CJ's shoot with Beautified Artistry, check out or Instagram's @beautified_artistry & @mzpris_ba

Thank you to everyone that collaborated with us on this month's blog post!

**Photographer -www.instagram.com/claudecreative 

**Photographer -www.instagram.com/photo.tonelson

Till next time babes,

~Priscilla M

January's Woman of the Month -PRISCILLA MIRANDA

Brave, strong, beautiful, courageous, pretty, funny, tough, inspiring..... These are all words that were spoken to me and about me by people throughout my life. Words that I never really believed were true. I always felt like people gave me constant affirmation to assure me that despite my imperfections, I was still all of these things. Growing up with a physical disability made me feel as though I constantly had to prove to everyone that I was good enough, despite my limitations. This mindset of needing to prove myself only intensified as I entered adulthood and the workforce. During my late teens and early twenties I encountered several instances of discrimination while interviewing for positions that I was clearly qualified for on paper. Even in instances when I was employed in a 9 to 5 job, I always felt like I should be so lucky that they gave me a chance considering my disability. So I was still having to be the best, make no mistakes, and settle for less pay than I was qualified to receive with my level of experience. At one point, I wasn't only trying to prove my worth despite being disabled, but despite being a disabled woman working in a 'man's world'. Constant situations like this caused me to take matters in my own hands and become a Certified Freelance Makeup Artist. In the past 7 years of being in the beauty industry, I have had the opportunity to build a solid portfolio, grow in my artistry, and gain confidence not only in my work, but in who I am as powerful woman. Yes, I have and still at times encounter awkward moments when a client did not realize that I was disabled until I showed up for the the actual appointment. When this occurs I no longer feel instantly discouraged. I simply pull out my tools and get to work while making casual conversation and taking an interest in every person that sits in my chair. Before long, the awkwardness is gone and I'm seen for who I am.... an everyday woman, no different than anyone else. There is no greater feeling than seeing my client look into the mirror and to see delight in their eyes. Not only was I able to make someone else feel confident & beautiful, but I have created a life where I am able to surpass my limitations and empower someone in the littlest way. In this moment, I finally truly believe that I am brave, strong, beautiful, courageous, pretty, funny, tough, and inspiring. 

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story! Keep your eyes peeled for our February Spotlight! 

XOXO

Priscilla