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In My Opinion LOVE GROWS IN 2019

Co n t e n t s 02




















y e H l l Y'a


“I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” ― Diane Von Furstenberg

Where did the year goooo?? We are closing out the last month of the year, and I’m here to tell you that twenty eighteen has been a doozy! It’s been a year of ups, downs, new beginnings, losses and gains. As most, I like to take the last days of the last month to reflect on where I was at the beginning of the year, where I am now, and everything in between. I can definitely say that I am not the same person I was at the start of the year. Every relationship I’ve cultivated, goal I’ve smashed, tear I’ve shed, and even eye I’ve rolled, has shaped me into a much better person. My worst moments, the moments I dare to share, the thoughts I’m ashamed of thinking, have taught me to love and accept me even at my worse. With every low and each disappointment, there has been an even higher high and that’s just the way things go, right??!? Without those down moments, how can you truly appreciate the ups? With that said, I don’t wish the uncomfortable moments were nonexistent, I’m grateful for them. For every disparing moment birthed a beautiful creation. Embrace those growing pains; through tough and long labor, life is created. XOXO, Starr




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Opinion L o v e

G r o w s

C o n t r i b u t o r ,

Hi, I am Misha and for the next few moments I am your personal relationship consultant. Let’s jump right to it! The purpose of dating is to get to know each other. We live in a time where everything seems to move at light speed. We can place an order online today and receive our items today. For a nominal fee we hire people to grocery shop for us, complete our errands even drive us to and from various locations. Of course this fast approach has also entered into our dating lives. From the comfort of our home we can swipe left and right on men the same way we do with material items. Now, I am not anti-online dating; actually I think it is simply another

i n

M i s h a

2 0 1 9 G r a n a d o

way to meet by broadening the dating net (granted sometimes rubbish will get caught in your net, but hey you can simply toss those back, more on this in a few). Humans are creatures of habits and the truth is with so many variables at play we simply may not organically cross paths with each other offline. This is definitely a benefit of online dating because it places you in front of more eyes. I think the online dating platform is a great meeting place to exchange a few pleasantries to determine if there is a mutual interest and then my suggestion is to meet offline. I label these ‘Meet & Greets’ these are not dates.


LOVE GROWS I N 2 0 1 9 (cont'd) A Meet & Greet is simply a casual opportunity to meet offline to determine if the interests translate in real life. The truth is there are some people who are ‘ah-mazing’ on paper, but in real life are socially awkward, the chemistry is not there, conversation is wack, etc. My suggestion is to plan these during the day, perhaps coffee, tea, a walk in the park, etc. If you two enjoy each other’s company the meet and greet will organically evolve into something more, inevitably someone will suggest going to grab a bite to eat, or to go check out some cool type of event or

activity. The point here is BOTH people WANT to spend more time with each other. This is VERY different than planning an extravagant formal date for the initial meeting, only to discover there is no attraction, conversation and now both people feel stuck to sit through a 5 course meal. A meet and greet only requires a nominal investment of time, money and energy. If upon meeting you, the other person or both are not interested you can simply part ways right there on the spot, no harm or foul.

8 Tips to Dating in 2019 1. Cultivate a Relationship with Self Spend more time discovering who you are by cultivating a relationship with self. Learn new skills. Visit new places. Travel solo. Invest in your healing. Seek a therapist if needed. Become emotionally healthy and mature. As you learn more about self, enjoy your company; grow more in love with self you will realize you are so dope! This is one of the best and most sustainable ways to dating purposeful. Once you are clear on who you are you will you stop settling for rubbish. 2. The Power of Your Past (Historical Markers) There is a wealth of knowledge and data from your past relationships use it. Which qualities and characteristics expand and constrict your mind and heart? If you know X does not work for you because you dated Person A in 2016 and this behavior did not compliment you then you KNOW this does not work for you. Therefore if you recognize this behavior in someone new you do not have to waste your time and energy because you already know it is not going to work. Move on sis. Your job is not to change a grown man. 3. Boundaries & Standards. Create them. Implement them. Use them. Articulate them to others. See the thing about boundaries is they are not universal. Boundaries are reflective of the standards YOU have for self and YOUR life. Since they are not universal you will have to teach others and their adherence to them will let you know if they respect and value you and your health on all levels. 4. Be Intentional. Why are you dating? What is your goal? Casual? Hook-up? New to a city and want to meet new friends? Long term relationship/marriage? Being clear on your reasons for dating allows you to be intentional and purposeful throughout the dating process and allows you to weed out individuals who are not in the same space. If your goal is marriage, it is important to remember that this type of relationship has very specific steps and cannot be fast-tracked. There is a formula (not a timeline) for healthy romantic relationships: Meet ---> Organically develop a friendship ----> Date ---->Date exclusively ----> committed relationship – etc. 5. Every Man is Not Your Husband. Relax! A date is not an interrogation or an interview; it is simply an opportunity to get to know each other. There should be infinite topics to chat about because you do not know each other. This is why at Love Grows, we suggest activity dates because men tend to chat more around activities…bowling, indoor rock climbing, skating, a CrossFit class, flying kites in the park, etc. In addition, this allows both parties to experience communication styles, teamwork, etc. both very important qualities for any healthy relationship. Also, dating allows you to confirm and affirm things you know and also to be exposed to behavior, characteristics, qualities you may have not experienced but discover you like or do not like.


LOVE GROWS I N 2 0 1 9 (cont'd)

6. Men Are Not Ambiguous. You will know if a man is truly interested in you, you will never have to guess. He will be clear. He will unapologetically court you with specifics. He will ask you on dates, call, follow up, practice the art of conversation because he truly wants to get to know you. If YOU are pursuing a man, making all the plans, initiating all or the majority of communication, etc. he is not that into you and that is okay. Graciously remove yourself as an option. Love and healthy relationship does NOT require you to chase. 7. Say No When You Know It’s a No. 2019 is the year of no more dates for food, gifts, trips, etc. *sigh* Time is the most precious commodity you have and you must be intentional with where, who, how and when you invest it. If you know you are not interested in a guy, stop playing him and yourself. Sis, its 2019 stop bartering your time, body and energy for material items. This is not kind or fair but also this keeps you from meeting and connecting with someone you really like while simultaneously hindering him from meeting who is meant for him. 2019 onward is the year of emotional health, emotional maturity and emotional responsibility. 8. Formally Close the Door. Do not ghost, give the wrong number, decline calls, avoid, block etc. Instead if you are not interested or no longer interested simply say that. You do not have to go into details, but formally close the door respectfully. Now, if the person does not accept your request, then you may have to block them and that is okay. Dating is a beautiful opportunity to learn more about self. Healthy relationships consists of individuals who are emotionally mature and healthy, who do not attempt to ‘micromanage’ each other or use any other sabotaging tactics. It is a new year and the perfect time to discard any and all behaviors that are no longer serving you. Love and healthy relationships cannot and will not bloom in such an environment. Love Grows! - M

You can check out the podcast In My Opinion with Starr Howard, available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Tunein and Google Play. New episodes are available every Wednesday. Download and listen in today!

Listen to Misha on a previous episode of the In My Opinion w/Starr Howard podcast.

Misha N. Granado, MPH, MS Certified Relationship Therapist & Behavioral Scientist @LoveGrows_Misha

Hashtag Black Love Pt. 1 Hashtag Black Love Pt. 2



Think Piece Sorry Not Sorry

Have you noticed the number of times you responsively, without thinking, say “I’m Sorry”? Some of us have been taught to be seen and not heard, to not speak up and voice our opinions, to not question those in power or authority, or to not rock the boat.  We’ve been taught these lessons both indirectly and directly, by mothers who have simply passed down what they have been taught. We are stil, in 2018, expected to be soft spoken, voiceless, thoughtless, and let’s be honest, uneducated.  The real bamboozle is interacting with someone who pretends to celebrate the woman who is the complete opposite of the expected, until she becomes a threat.  We can’t be smarter than our male colleagues because they may feel threatened.  We can’t be taller or more opinionated than our male partners because we don’t want to threaten their masculinity.   We are judged when we choose careers and goals over a husband and kids or if we choose the husband and kids over the career.   Ladies, we should never have to apologize for putting work first, putting our kids and husbands first, our bra cup size, choosing to or choosing not to wear makeup, independence, making more money, having our periods, wearing your hair in any way you choose to, being skinny, being fat, laughing loudly, and speaking whatever is on your mind! We have to stop apologizing for simply being who you are!  Stop apologizing for being a woman! This idea of women having to shrink themselves for the man next to them to feel validated is not limited to men.  We sometimes make ourselves smaller so the next woman isn’t intimidated.  

Give yourself permission to live a big life. Step into who you are meant to be. Stop playing small to make others around you feel comfortable. - Starr Howard

It’s not your responsibility to lessen yourself to increase the next woman. Yes, encourage that woman to rise higher.  BE the woman that makes other women step their game up.   Give yourself permission to live a big life.  Step into who you are meant to be. Stop playing small to make others around your feel comfortable.  You’re meant for greater things and you don’t owe an explanation for who you are, to anyone! XOXO,



I am not a Ride or Die Chick. I repeat...I am NOT a Ride or Die chick. At least not in the way as understood in the streets. Here is what I understand the term to mean. A woman who is eternally devoted to her partner and his choices, no matter what they may be. She engages in all aspects of his life; lying for him, assisting him and standing beside him even when his deeds are dangerous and illegal. The ride or die woman stands beside her partner even when it poses a danger to self and is loyal to that person at all costs. This is where I draw the line. NO person, partner, parent, pet, etc will ever allow you, let alone ask you to lose or endanger yourself for their sake. I do understand that there will be circumstances where you will have to stand up, defend and protect your love ones, but please understand and use discernment to determine what situations require that sort of dedication and loyalty. The Ride or Die way of thinking normalizes the mistreatment of black women in romantic relationships. This culture makes it okay to disrespect the black woman, in whatever form that looks like, with no consequences. In addition, the woman that decides to not engage in that behavior, is looked down on as seen as disloyal. No toxic relationship, whether intimate or platonic, is acceptable. NOT ONE. Some women have been conditioned to believe that if the love or relationship isn’t tumultuous, than it’s not love. Wrong, sis. Love and relationships do not equal struggle! Knock down drag outs, incarceration, children conceived with other women outside of your relationship, physical violence and

disrespectful and demeaning language towards you is not a prerequisite for love. You deserve better. I don’t want it. I never have. Relationships will come with disagreements, down times and hardships such as health issues, grief, and/or financial obstacles, but healthy relationships work together, respectfully, to overcome them, move on, and are all the better for it. Unfortunately, Ride or Die relationships are oftentimes code for unhealthy relationships in the black community. Where did we get the idea that dysfunction is love and normal? More importantly, how do we change this narrative? Therapy, counseling, recognizing your worth, expecting demanding more from your partner, and setting standards is a good start.



In Business Blissfully Inspired Starr: What is Blissfully Inspired? Blissfully Inspired specializes in design for special events and celebrations.  I make custom items, including invitations, acrylic and wood signage, luxury gift boxes, cake toppers, menus and much more. For any special moment that you celebrate, Blissfully Inspired can design any element.

Starr: What is your background? Funny enough, my background is in Accounting and Management Information Systems.  I started out my professional career in Public Accounting at Ernst & Young, LLP, and I’ve been in Corporate America ever since.  My current role is focused on Corporate governance, fraud detection and financial investigations

Starr: Where did this gift for branding and graphic design come from? I’ve always loved paper and designing invitations from a very early age.  I used to beg my mom to let me design all my birthday invitations.  When I was in school and we had any visual group assignments, I was always volunteering to design the posters and PowerPoint presentations to make sure I had creative control.  I designed my first website in college, while taking a web design class and won 1st place in our University competition.  I was so in love with the process of creating that I started reading coding books and consuming all the information I could get from library books and video tutorials.  I also love school and office supplies, and I often get lost on stationery aisles in Target and spend lots of time shopping in my favorite paper stores.  I feel like it’s so special to send a pretty personalized note to send to someone and brighten their day.  That artform is becoming lost, and I want to keep that tradition going through my gift of design!

Starr: Why did you decide to turn your passion into a business? After I had my first daughter, I didn’t want to return to my Corporate job at the time, but I knew I had to.  I was becoming more confident in my design skills, and I would ask my entrepreneur friends if I could design sites and logos for them to build up my portfolio.  When I had my first paying client, I started to consider that I could really do this as a business.  From there, the side hustle journey began.  I have always felt a burning desire inside to work for myself, and it’s so easy to become hasty and fed up with the process.  But I have realized that slow and steady building is the key.  No one (no matter what it seems, especially on social media) made it to success overnight. 

Starr: Are you a full time business owner? Why or why not? I am currently part of the side hustle community.  I am very risk averse, and I have set some very strict goals for myself to meet before I would be comfortable fully switching over to full time entrepreneurship.  I recently have invested and budgeted for coaching that I know will take me to the next level that I wish to be in the near future.  My goal has always been to work for myself, and there have been times when I have doubted my path because of the time it’s taken me to get “there”.  However, I have also learned some extremely hard lessons with setting boundaries, establishing a firm workflow, dealing with burnout and also overdelivering, in hopes of providing the most stellar service.  I’ve learned that all of those experiences were necessary and pivotal on my journey to help me become the businesswoman who will be able to sustain herself as a full-time entrepreneur.

Starr: As a mom of 4 and a wife, what has been your challenge or your push to become a business owner? Great question.  My family is actually my driving force and motivation.  I want to be able to spend as much time being present in their lives as possible, and I feel that entrepreneurship will help me get there, in having more control over my schedule and also maximizing my earning potential.


Starr: What advice do you have for other moms, specifically busy career moms, who want to start their own business? Nothing comes easy.  Even though the progress will seem slow and full of every challenge you can imagine, keep pushing through.  Each obstacle will teach you a valuable lesson to carry on to your next level.  Also, be careful of what is portrayed on social media.  Remember that only the best of the best life gets posted.  We don’t get to see real life, so don’t compare yourself to someone else’s journey and become discouraged.  Lastly, establish boundaries for what your business does and does not offer and stick to those principles.  

Starr: As a career mom, wife, and entrepreneur, do you ever experience mom guilt when working full time and committing free time to your business? I actually feel more guilt when I work so much and don’t give as much time to my family.  I’ve realized that being an entrepreneur in the creative / consulting space somehow confuses people that they should have direct access to you at all times.  There are very late (both after hours and last minute)  emails, texts and phone calls I receive for all sorts of requests.  People expect you to always be “on” and ready to accept any request or job they want you to work on.  Historically, I would take any and all of these, staying up until almost 2-3 AM.  I’ve learned that sleep is very important and healthy, and so is disconnecting from my clients, phone, social and my computer.  

Starr: How do you “balance” it all? Most days, I personally don’t feel like I do this very well at all.  It’s one of those things that I constantly review and challenge myself to discover ways to become stronger in this area.  Some of my colleagues in a few of the masterminds I belong to feel differently and always ask me how I do it….and I have to say that my husband has been very supportive of me and helps me find time to work on critical projects with sensitive timelines.  The second most reliable tool has been weekly planning of my calendar, down to what meals we are eating for dinner so that I am super prepared.  I have found that when I have to ask myself “ok, so what are we going to do for _____”, that point in time is already to late for me.  I will probably end up making a bad decision.  The third thing that has helped me in this area is setting expectations with my clients.  When I get a new project, I have learned to communicate what my expected turnaround date is so everyone is on the same page.

Starr: Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? What kept you going? I want to quit every single week!  I am part of a really great text thread of black women entrepreneurs who keep me sane and push me to keep going when I’ve reached a low point.  I am very grateful for them and all the other supportive friends in my life. Also, my oldest daughter recently came home from school and said that she had told all her friends at school that her mom can make anything.  She went on to name several of the items she has seen me design at home, and then she told me that she wants to be just like me when she grows up.  For me, that was truly the epitome of everything I felt like I ever wanted to hear from my child.  I certainly want all my kiddos to live their own lives and follow the direction of their own dreams, but for a six year old to recognize my hard work and appreciate it made my heart do cartwheels.  Those are the reasons that I can’t give up.  There are important eyes on me that are more impacted than I ever realized.

Starr: What advice do you have for any women who may not feel that they have the time to pursue their passion, experience mom guilt, or are afraid to push through their fears? I would challenge any ladies experiencing these feelings to create a list, representing the top five successes they would like to achieve in pursuing their passion.  Next to each of those areas, write a plan of how to get there.  Take a day to let it rest, then come back to that list and ask yourself if you are more afraid of succeeding or more afraid of failing.  Mom guilt and self-sabotage go hand-in-hand to me, and sometimes it’s hard for me to tell the difference between those two imposters.  I would really encourage any women to reach out to a mentor or respected colleague that you have in your network and ask questions on how you can get started on the right path.  Some of my greatest ideas have come from having these heart to hearts with my girlfriends.  Others can often see strengths in you that you take for granted.

Starr: What has been your greatest success today? I think not giving up, despite all the obstacles, hardships and tears.  Running a business takes mental and emotional resiliency.

Lya Pollard @blissfullyinspired @thebrandbae


Holiday 2018 WISH LIST


Coil Brass Cuffs Click Here

Quay Jaclyn Hill Upgrade 55mm Square Sunglasses (Tort Gold/Brown) Click Here

Two Tone Herringbone Scarf Click Here

Chanel Chance Eau De Parfum Spray Click Here

Skinny Cubic Zirconia Pave Band Ring (Gold) Click Here

The Lip Bar Holiday Collection Click Here

Dreamer Bucket Bag Russet Tan Click Here


Holiday 2018 WISH LIST

YETI Rambler 14 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Mug Lid Click Here Gucci GG Marmont matelassé velvet belt bag Click Here

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera Smokey White Click Here

Anthropologie Capri Blue Volcano Iridescent Jar Candle Click Here Serein Mini Diamond Watch Head & Bracelet, 28mm Click Here

Leopard Dot Flannel Bedtime Pajamas Click Here

UGG™ San Mateo Throw Blanket Click Here Bond No. 9 New York Perfume The Scent of Peace Click Here





assail is my fall time favorite drink to make for the Holidays. It’s usually my go to beverage to take to Holiday parties 

and dinners because it’s so simple, a definite crowd pleaser and can be enjoyed by everyone. BUT, if you want to really get the party started, or slow it down, add a little bit of brown liquor. Hot Toddy anyone? All you need are a few simple delicious and flavorful ingredients. You can use either a crockpot or a coffee urn. I recommend a crockpot because we all have one or know someone who does. Wassail not only serves as a great party beverage it’s helpful if you have a bit of winter bug that you can’t shake.  The cloves in the recipe are great for fighting colds and flu and cinnamon has a bazillion health benefits.  So gather your girls together for a pajammy jam, whip together a delicious charcuterie board, a batch of hot Christmas cookies, crank up the Temptations Silent Night, grab your favorite Christmas mug, and pour everyone a hot cup of wassail!  And maybe a little yack! ;) 

"Warm, festive, holiday drink"

HOLIDAY WASSAIL Ingredients: 2 quarts apple cider 1-1/2 cups orange juice 3/4 cup pineapple juice 2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches) Dash ground cloves Orange slices (For Garnishing) Apple slices (For Garnishing) Peppermint sticks (Just to be cute) Directions: In a large crockpot, combine all of the ingredients until hot. Add orange and apple slices (optional) Serve in mugs Add a peppermint stick or a cinnamon stick for fun and cute decorations



on a Dime

"Christmas Coffee Table"

There is a small piece of me that is a tad bit traditional and it usually rears its head during Christmas. I gravitate towards traditional colors like reds and golds and plaid patterns. The benefit of traditional Christmas decor is that you can typically find pieces anywhere!

This year, I did not put up a Christmas tree, but I added small touches around the apartment, specifically the coffee table and y’all know I was NOT about to spend all of my dollas to make it happen. Take a look at how I created a traditional Christmas Coffee Table for less than $40! I’m sure you can recreate the look for less by simply using what you already have. Let’s get started…

My coffee table is small and round, and not really that functional. The only function it serves as is a TV Dinner tray so I was perfectly fine with crowding the table with decor.

I used a throw blanket that I picked up from Pier 1, as my base. I could have easily used what I have, but none of my throws match the Christmas decor. This blanket was on sale AND an additional 50% off sale price! *DOD Tip: A large blanket scarf will create the same look.*

Once the base is set start piling on all of the things. I stopped in a cute little bookstore in town, that have a pile of books that they give away for free. I didn’t really care about the title {as long as they weren’t demonic}, I just wanted books with red covers.


*DOD Tip: old books can serve as amazing decor pieces. Just remove the paper covers to add a pop of color to your space. Shop second hand stores, thrift stores, and vintage stores.� For these inexpensive finds.* Candles are always a must for any coffee table. Dress any of your existing candle jars up by dropping them in a hurricane glass holder for any occasion. For Christmas, i placed a few holly berries, used green garland pieces from my Friendsgiving tablescape, and some faux gold/champagne leaves. As a I mentioned, I did not put up a tree this year, but I created a tabletop tree using an 18 inch faux tree from Dollar Tree, dropped it in a planter from my stash, and added holly berry sticks and ornaments from the same store. To finish the table I grouped together leftover ornaments from the package of ornaments used on the Baby Tree, grabbed an old pillar candle and this wooden Joy sign i snagged from the dollar spot at Target. Voila! A beautiful cozy Coffee Table with all the Christmas feels. Honestly, I wish I was doll sized so I could live in this little space. *DOD Tip: When decorating for the Holidays, you can take advantage of major sales if you wait about 2 weeks before Christmas Day, or grab items, immediately after Christmas.* The price tag for this particular set up may be more than some would typically spend to decorate a coffee table, however, consider the fact that this is the only space I have decorated for the Holidays and a lot of the things used are quite possibly laying around your own home! Be creative and always start with what you have! Merry Christmas and warm wishes to you and your family! Starr



Shoppable Links: Red/White Buffalo Check Throw: Pier 1 - $18.68-Click here Candle: Anthropologie - $30.00-Click here Glass Hurricane: Target - $4.99-Click here Baby Christmas Tree, Ornaments and Holly Berry Sticks: Shop your local Dollar Tree  

Tiny Bottle Brush Trees: Target - $5.60/each-Click here “Joy” wooden sign: Shop your Local Target “Dollar Spot” Holiday Stem Pick: Target - $3.50/Each-Click here

Design ON A DIME


What Really


"CELEBRATE THE JOURNEY" We’ve all set goals day to day, month to month, and with each passing of a new year. Some call them New Year Resolutions, I simply set goals I plan to smash and get them done. Whatever you call them, there’s no mistake that they bring on a certain amount of pressure. We may stress over resources to get them started, whether it be the finances, education, or simply the time. The time is the only thing we can’t control, once it’s gone it’s gone. We’re constantly in a race with time.

With all goals, we create timelines with completion dates, and that’s where the stress and the pressure comes in. Here we are, two weeks from the close of the year, and we are frantically pushing ourselves to reach deadlines; some realistic and others, not so much. We are missing out on the now because we are worried about finishing the goal.

We place too much emphasis on whether the goal has been accomplished on a set date, that we don’t consider the effort. We don’t consider the business plan we meticulously wrote out because we didn’t actually open the business. We gloss over the sacrifices made to save the money needed for the house down payment because we didn’t actually close in 2018. We beat ourselves up because we didn’t walk across the stage in December but have forgotten about the admission door God opened when we didn’t have the GPA required to get accepted in the first place!

Yes, goals matter and completing them is the objective, BUT what really matters is the start. What really matters is the DECISION you made; to start something new, to push past your fears, to silence the naysayers especially when the loudest naysayer is you. Making the decision, staying consistent and faithful, seeking God, and showing up, showing up for you, has no other choice than to yield completion and victory.

Continue to press toward the goal but don’t forget to celebrate the journey.

XOXO, Starr

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Celebrate the Journey, December 2018