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Kenia and Marlon were the kind of couple others envied. They were young, good-looking and successful; they lived in a nice home and had three beautiful children. To the world it seemed as if they were living the dream. In reality, Kenia Nuñez was mentally and physically exhausted, trying to balance it all and coping with depression as her “fairytale marriage” was falling apart.
Three months shy of Kenia and Marlon’s 13th wedding anniversary, Marlon was diagnosed with stage II cancer in early 2012. It wasn’t until Kenia’s husband was diagnosed with cancer did she realize that life is meant to be lived with purpose and enjoyed to its fullest extent.
During the most chaotic time in her family's life, Kenia reinvented both her body and spirit to find what she calls the “extraordinary blessings” in her life. She began working out and taking care of herself. She lost more than 50 pounds and regained peace of mind. Kenia credits her exercise to helping her both mentally and physically — “when Marlon’s legs could barely move,” she says, “I lifted him, I supported him.” He passed away in May 2013.
Kenia shared her emotional journey through social media. Her story was so inspiring that she turned her social media posts into a book, “Surrendering: When Pain is Transformed into Extraordinary Blessings.” She describes it as a tribute to their love story and the invaluable lessons they learned in the face of tragedy. The Long Island, New York mom of three is now a wellness coach who has made it her mission to help others.
I spoke with Kenia about how her personal tragedy changed her life and gave her a grateful, positive attitude that’s allowed her to inspire other women to take care of themselves, mentally and physically.
Q: When did you realize you had to make a change?
Kenia Nuñez: When I realized that feeling sorry for our situation and asking “why us?” was not going to change the outcome.
Q: How has your lifestyle change changed you?
Kenia Nuñez: My lifestyle has allowed me to grieve with an attitude of gratitude. Simply put, it just means that I still grieve, I still hurt, I still cry, I still feel a void, but I am able to experience all of those things without allowing those emotions to steal my joy or the sparkle from my children’s eyes.
Q: How do you motivate others to put themselves first?
Kenia Nuñez: I find that the best way to motivate others is to teach them. I teach women how to practice self-care in a practical and mindful way that they never even have to leave their home to accomplish. My self-care method entails a holistic approach to wellness; it’s an acronym that I coined after I discovered that my peace during the most tragic time of my life was no accident. SavvyMe is my self-care method — what I use today and how I teach other women to maintain balance in their lives. SavvyMe stands for: Sleep, Alkaline Diet, Vitamins, Validate Others, Your Purpose, Meditation, Exercise. I work deeply and deliberately in these areas with the women that I coach.
Q: What has been the greatest lesson you have learned through this journey?
Kenia Nuñez: My self-care is non-negotiable. I have said yes too often. Learning to say “no” is darn hard, but sometimes necessary. Even if I let others down by not being able to follow through, I give myself a pass. When I tried to please everyone, I failed myself. Failing myself is no way to please anyone.
Q: What advice would you give to a grieving widow?
Kenia Nuñez: That there is no right way or wrong way to grieve; that as time goes on the pain does not lessen, but you will get stronger — and that there is a way to use your pain to help you get stronger, and that is by sharing your story. Your story matters and someone out there is waiting to hear it.
To continue following Kenia’s journey, you can find her on Facebook atThe Savvy Widow. Images courtesy of Kenia Nuñez.