Category: Coffee and Confessions

Optical Illusion Art

Do you remember the app ‘Paint’ on Windows 95? Well today I revisited my youth and tried my hand at these optical illusion pieces which I must say I’m pretty impressed with how they turned out. Lately, I’ve been battling with severe eczema and allergies the itching is very intense at times so for me this week it’s all I can do to keep my mind off this. Art for me is a creative outlet it keeps my mind busy and active in a positive way. I hope you enjoy what I’m sharing with you.

An Introduction to 7 Deadly Sins To Dumping Someone For My Single Readers Out There

While I’ve written countless posts about everything wrong with society when it comes to love and relationships nowadays, I’d have my head in the mud if I hadn’t acknowledge one universal truth: sometimes you’re just not compatible with someone anymore. Being the happily married friend, I tend to get a lot of my single friends coming to me for advice on how to break up with someone or how to handle an issue when it arises in their relationships. While my husband and I are totally flattered that our single friends put our relationship to the status of #RelationshipGoals, these conversations are never ease to advise for. While emotions tend to run high I always remind them that there’s a right and wrong way to dump someone. 

What is the worst way to break up with someone? Of course, the truth is there’s really no right way to dump somebody. No matter how nice you are about it, someone is going to end up getting hurt. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some more gentle ways of breaking up with someone.

A lot of research one this topic found that the biggest factor of a bad breakup is, obviously, the way the breakup happens. Researchers discovered that college students were much more concerned over how their breakup happened rather than why it happened. Keeping that in mind, like the 7 deadly sins in the life, you should try to avoid these 7 deadly ways dumping someone. Because no matter how horrible someone is, they always deserve respect and dignity.

1. Doing It in Public

I’ve never done this, I always advise my single friends NEVER to do this because its just outright cruel, but I know people who did it anyway. So why do they do it? Probably because they heard breakup advice that actually encourages them to dump someone in a public place. The reasoning behind that logic is usually so that the person you’re dumping can’t do anything crazy. 

However, here’s my thoughts on that: if someone is going to go insane because you dumped them, they’re going to do it whether you’re alone or not. In the end, breaking up with someone in a restaurant or when you’re at a party is embarrassing. Through the years I’ve learned a breakup should be something private, not a huge thing for others to watch.  The only time you should dump someone when other people are around is if you’re genuinely afraid this person is going to hurt you. In which case, maybe just bring one friend that’s a respectable distance away from the talk but close enough to swoop in if need be.

2. Being Caught Cheating

One of my close friends was in a relationship with a girl that was hooking up with a former long time guy friend of mine for almost a month before ending the relationship. The entire group of our friends, except for my poor friend in question, knew it. This made Tom and I super upset, we gave them 2 weeks to come clean, before we spilled the beans. Luckily, the girl did right by my friend and dumped him before ending up with said former long time guy friend. We don’t speak anymore, but they ended up getting married. As for my close friend? He was extremely hurt but after he gave himself time to emotionally and physically heal, he found himself an amazing woman. He’s married and is about to have his second child. Any potential significant other who loves you will respect you more for not rushing into things until you’re ready.

The moral of that story is never to cheat if you want out! No matter how bleak things look, have more respect for yourself. It’s bad enough to cheat on someone in the first place (I’m sorry, but it is!), but getting yourself caught is even worse. It’s one thing to be told that you’re being cheated on and it’s quite another to watch the person you love cheat on you. This kind of breakup might be the worst kind. If you want to be with other people, break up with your partner before you cheat or you risk Carrie or Gary Underwood to find you and key your car.

3. Doing It Through MySpace, oh right, Facebook -Yep! As I prepare to hit the big 3-0 I reflected back on the immaturity of my teen years and realize I’ve done this, only it was 2005 MySpace. Looking back, I feel sincerely horrible about it too because in reality its one the worst ways to break up with someone via Social Media with no warning whatsoever. In my defense, I was young and felt really angry about something else I’ll mention later on in this article said “forget you” just by changing my status to single. Looking back on it, I can only imagine how horrible it must have been for my ex to find out he’d been dumped along with the rest of our mutual MySpace friends, I’m sure it was a major bummer. Thirty year old me is sincerely sorry for this, and if I have one regret it is not meeting up with him to do it properly. Single readers out there, don’t take a page out of my book in this respect – all it does it make you look like a coward.

4. Dumping Someone Via Text– Yep I did this too, with my now husband when we “went on a break” as teenagers. In my defense I’d been with him since I was 16 and being 19 years old telling him I needed space wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to see the hurt in his eyes so I did it through a text message. Looking back on that, the meaning behind that low blow was that I felt more confident doing it when I could write my words out rather than speaking them. Big mistake, especially if you genuinely love that person. There are some points in our life where we have to act mature enough to confront people in person – breakups are one of those times. Texting allows for way too many misunderstandings and hurt feelings. While, I found my amazing husband in the form of the very poor, heartbroken sap I did this to, I don’t encourage you to ever do the same.

5. Having A Friend Do It For You

Okay this is the king of cowardly ways to dump someone: having a friend do it for you comes neck in neck with changing your MySpace ( now commonly Facebook) relationship status. While I know it’s tempting to have someone else be the middle man, it’s not cool to involve a third party in something that should be private.

6. The Thing That Lead Me To Doing #3 on This List AKA Actually Kind Of Just Doing… Nothing. This ruins any change of salvaging your ex’s respect and may lead them to take my young and impressionable route. While I get it, sometimes when we get scared to actually break up with someone, we try to get them to go ahead and do it for us this is just pathetic because chances are your partner can feel the temperature change in the relationship and than gets anxious. I’ve had this done to me in my late teens and its the worst feeling ever! Honestly, it turns any self assured female into an emotionally erratic nutcase ( hey, not proud of it but I been there). What constitutes as this? When we start ignoring the person and acting like a jerk on purpose! That way, the person feels like the breakup is their decision. I get that maybe you think you’re doing them a favor, but it’s actually really a sick mind game. If you don’t want to be with someone, end the relationship. Don’t wait for your partner to do it for you. That just makes you both unhappy and really makes no sense.

7. Dumping Someone Before A Big Event

I have to contradict myself a little here: while I would never advise dragging out a breakup for a long period of time, there are some exceptions. Don’t dump someone a few days before a big event you’re both supposed to attend, like if he or she is going to be your date to a wedding or other major event. Chances are that person has already spent a lot of money on something to wear and maybe even changed plans around to go with you. If you want to end things a few weeks before the event, that’s fine – go for it. But if it’s a week to one day before the event? Try to hold off until it’s over… unless the person did something really awful.

I don’t envy singles in this messed up dating world, I also wanted to write something inclusive for those of my readers out there who aren’t married or have children. While I know there’s no easy way of letting go or telling someone they don’t suit you well as a boyfriend or girlfriend, you should NEVER do any of the seven deadly things mentioned above. The most valuable advice I can give you is to be an authentic version of yourself, you dated that person for a reason and at one point you found them irresistible so you owe it to that person to break up with them in the classiest way possible.

Five Things I’ve Learned From Losing A Childhood Friend To Addiction

There’s no single best way to cope with a great loss…

Monday, March 25th 2019 should have been a day to celebrate. My friend Joe would have turned 30 years old. Perhaps if things were different, in a perfect sort of world, I would have been out having drinks with him instead of writing this post. There’s nobody to go out celebrating with, there’s no voice on the other end of the phone to wish a happy birthday to and there’s nothing I can do to turn back the hands of time and have one more day where I could say: ‘I’m here for you, please don’t give up hope.’

Instead I lost him, three years ago to heroin. In fact, I wrote a whole article about disenfranchised grief and the isolation one goes through when losing a friend, relative, or loved one to addiction. We should have been celebrating a birthday today, instead I’m writing a tribute to his life and the five things I’ve learned from losing my friend to addiction.

“I’ve learned not everyone will understand the way I mourn”

This statement is probably the realist statement any surviving relative or friend of an addict can attest to. While after high school ended Joe and I drifted a bit, he was still a very important person in my adolescent life. The fact that he would pop up and then disappear throughout my early to mid twenties was irrelevant, whenever we saw each other it was like no time had passed. He was always one of my best friends, our bond never changed, just our priorities. Many people didn’t or still don’t understand how I can mourn for someone who I could go weeks to months even years at a time without seeing since graduating high school before they popped back up. My answer is that regardless, he was my friend and it’s my right to love him, miss him and wish things could have been different for him.

I’ve learned that in people trying to give me space, they often forget to say ‘I’m here for you if you need to talk‘ which is nice to hear.”

Addiction is a tricky animal as in when you lose someone TO it nobody really knows what to say. Many of my best friends didn’t reach out to me at all even after viewing my Instagram and Facebook tribute to Joe most of them hiding under the pretense of ‘well I wanted to give you your space to reflect’. Sometimes we the survivors of someone addiction took from us really want you to say, ‘I know today’s not easy, but I’m here for you if you want to talk’. People are so used to tip-toeing around the taboo subject of drug addiction that there’s a total disconnect in empathy for those left behind. I’ve learned that’s the way it is: I do not fault people for not knowing what to say to me but I appreciate those who try.

“I’ve learned that I have no tolerance for people who don’t realize Joe was so much more then his inner demons and addiction”

People often forget that behind every addict who lost their battle there was a person who the people left behind truly loved. My friend Joe died of a heroin overdose but he was so much more than a statistic. He hated pictures but was a great photographer, he hated school but he loved nothing more then hanging out playing Xbox with or sitting under boardwalk lights to talk about life with friends. He was low key but outgoing, introverted but social. He kept his close friends circle small but once you were in, you were in for life. He was smart, so smart he was destructive if not challenged. He was funny without trying to be, brutally honest and unapologetically so, but mostly he was loyal to a fault. He put on a grouchy front sometimes but if you were crying he’d hug you close in a minute and make you feel like everything would be okay. He got involved with the wrong people, he experimented with the wrong kind of things and he paid for it with his life. He was more than just an addict: he was a son. A brother. An Uncle. A cousin. A friend. I learned there there are people who will always see him as an addict who did this to himself, I find it really hard to talk to or relate to those types of people who refuse to look beyond the circumstances which led to his untimely demise. I understand there are people who will always judge Joe for what he did in the end rather than all the positivity he gave those he cared for. I try not to judge these people too harshly, but I’m only human it does upset me sometimes.

“I learned there’s no single way to cope with a loss so great.”

Grieving a childhood friend is a lot like being on a roller coaster. There are days where I can look back on memories I shared with Joe and laugh until tears of joy are streaming down my face; on the other hand there are days where I’ll remember something he said or hear a song we used to jam out to in Mike’s car and I’ll just start crying. On the one hand, you remember and reflect as that person had a huge impact on your formative childhood and adolescent years and on the other hand as an adult who’d gone so long without seeing him before learning of his death almost wonder if you have the right to mourn at all.

Last year on Joe’s birthday, I lit a candle for him, said a prayer for his soul, and cried for a good 45 minutes. This year on Joe’s birthday I said a prayer for him, but I also spoke to him out loud on my way to work and had a conversation with him. Sure, I was essentially talking out loud hoping wherever he was he could hear me but I popped on my Pandora put on the Black Sabbath station and listened to all our favorite songs we used to sing aloud to come on in a row-I’d like to think that was him saying he was thinking of me too and listening to what I had to say. Sometimes I feel Joe’s presence so loudly in my life even though he’s not here physically and others I feel a void, this sense of silence. I’m not sure how I’ll celebrate his birthday next year, for every year since he passed it has been different. Sometimes memories make me smile, sometimes they make me cry but they all make me lucky I knew him and had him in my life no matter how brief it was. I realized that the grieving process is an ever evolving and ever-changing cycle of cherishing the good times and mourning the loss of someone you’ll never get to experience making more memories with in the future again.

“I’ve learned that I really hate when people think I should be over it by now.”

Losing a close friend (especially under the circumstances of addiction) is the type of loss that you simply learn how to cope with. Miraculously, everyone thinks there’s a statute of limitation to the grieving process. I don’t really think people realize when they ask me how I can still be so sad when I haven’t seen him in years just how insulting it really is.

The answer to the question is really simple I will never be over the fact that I lost my friend to heroin. I will never be over the fact that although there was nothing I can do to change the outcome of what happened, that I don’t still wish there was something I could’ve said or did to have kept him still living on this Earth. I will never be over wishing I could have pulled him away from the people who influenced him to try harder drugs which lead to his untimely death.

I will never be over wondering what his last few minutes on earth were like: whether or not he was alone, whether or not he was scared, whether or not Mike and I’s faces were some of the last people he saw flash before his eyes before he passed away. I wonder if he wished he was sitting at a bar with both of us or either of us watching a hockey game and busting Mike’s balls for liking the New York Rangers instead of wherever he was when he took his last breath. I wonder if he wished in those last few moments of life that he can do it all over again and I wonder if he still would’ve made the same decision knowing the outcome would bring.

I don’t believe that Joe meant to hurt anyone by dying on that night or day in February, I do firmly believe he thought he was invincible. I do not believe anyone who truly knew him as a person could ever really truly be over the loss of his life. I also learned that many do not understand this because they do not understand him, they do not understand our bond, and they do not understand what he meant to me.

“I’ve learned that while I don’t like to believe Joe’s death was God’s Will, I am proud to see the loss of his life inspired many in our graduating class to get clean and stay clean.”

Bringing religion into a topic where addiction is concerned is very touchy. As humans on a daily basis we often sometimes struggle with what God’s will truly is. While I do not believe that God necessarily willed Joe’s life to end the way that it did I do believe his death was not in vain.

Since Joe’s passing, several members of my graduating high school class have reached out to me and expressed their genuine sadness in the loss of Joe’s life. They have also expressed to me that his death inspired them to seek help, get clean, and stay clean. For this I have learned that although I do not like to think of Joe’s loss of life as God’s plan perhaps it was the catalyst to save others from the same fate so that they could fulfill their life’s purpose before they died. Maybe Joe’s life purpose was to be a catalyst to change, no matter how painful that may be.

I like to think that Joe would have been very happy that he saved a life that he inspired those left behind to get clean and stay clean. Joe was very private with his battle I often knew when he wasn’t doing well because those would be the months and sometimes years in which I would not hear a sound from him. I knew when he was doing well because that would be when he would be very active in my life, calling and meeting up, laughing together like no time had passed. While Joe kept his struggles and his inner demons to himself I do feel like he would be very proud in knowing that he helped those around him to defeat their inner demons and live life to the fullest.

But mostly I learned that life isn’t fair and addiction doesn’t care who you are or what your social or economic standings are. It’s thieving, it’s cheating and unrelenting in its pursuit to destroy lives and breakup families and friends. I also learned that while these circumstances which addiction destroys life as we know it by taking those we love we have two options. We can choose to let it consume us in grief or emboldened us to live on carrying ourselves in a way that would honor their memory. I learned that mostly I am successful at choosing the latter.

I hope that in writing this very personal piece about what I’ve learned from losing someone I care for to addiction I inspire someone else who is struggling and drowning in the grief and loss to know they’re not alone. Whoever you are and whatever the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death please know that their life was so much more then a statistic and you can honor their memory by finding strength in each passing day to live and share your message to bring the taboo of addiction into the forefront and change people’s minds and hearts for the better. God love and God bless you all.

March 22nd 2002: Revising the loss of a childhood friend and how it still affects me today.

Hi Fan Friends,

This will be a somber post, an honest post. I am revising an old wound from the past. As 17 years today I lost a close friend of mine. I still remember sitting in the guidance counselors’ office after I heard the news. I couldn’t cry quite yet because I didn’t even believe that it was real. Have you ever had one of those moments where the world seems to slow down into slow-motion and you feel like you’re going to wake up any minute? I thought I was dreaming. I just remember looking out the glass window of the guidance office seeing all the other people just laughing and running up and down the halls after the bell rang signifying the end of a class period.

Lost and sad were adjectives I’d use to describe my emotions as the moments ticked on. Thoughts like, ‘how could they be laughing and smiling when I just lost my friend? How can the sun even be shining when such an infectious smile can no longer be seen?’ Wracked my mind and left me feeling isolated in the days, weeks and months to come.

Its no secret that I took up a bit of a mantle in making sure that my friend Jessica was never forgotten for the rest of our school years but I’ve never really gone on record and talked about 17 years ago today because it was painful.

It’s still painful, to be honest. I don’t know, looking back, if I really properly grieved for her. While I never went to her services because I did not want the last memory I had of her to be in a coffin, I also wanted to remember her healthy and vibrant. I was much too young to really understand the impact that loss would have on me. Looking back I can honestly say, losing a friend before you even turn 13 is traumatic in a lot of ways: mainly in the way that it made me realize just how human and mortal we all really are.

The aftermath of Jessica’s death, affected my anxiety attacks which had gotten so bad that I would often wake up at 2 or 3 AM, nauseous, feeling like I was gonna throw up, and shaking from head to toe. These nights were fraught with me praying that I could fall back to sleep peacefully. During the daytime hours made me want to hug my friends tighter and do my best to be the very best person I could be, even on days I didn’t feel like it. Remembering how someone so beautiful on the inside and out, someone who was a genuinely good person and loved to do good for others can just be gone in a blink totally sobers you.

I often sit sometimes and talk with our friend Nate and we usually always wonder if we still would’ve been friends at this stage in our lives, the three of us. We wonder if Jessica would’ve become a vet because she really loved animals- not only did she love them she was really good with them-while both of us would like to think absolutely we would still be friends as we hit mile mark 30 one thing I know for certain that I can truly say is that I am a better person because she was my friend.

I pray for her every single morning when I wake up and I talk to her every single night before I go to sleep. I don’t know for sure if she’s listening but I like to think she is. I’d also like to tell a funny story because that’s the story she’d want told.

While walking to lunch one of the days it was no secret that Jess loved Lance Bass. For those of you who do not know who Lance Bass is he was a member of the very popular boy band *NSYNC. She always used to say if she couldn’t have him no other woman can. Nate and I would always laugh when she said this. Turns out no other woman really can have Lance Bass because after Jessica passed away a few years later Lance came out as gay. I laughed when I read the article, not because I’m homophobic in anyway, but because I thought ‘well Jess you got your wish no other woman shall have him’.

God rest, keep, and bless my beautiful friend in heaven Jessica Renee Gonzalez until we meet again. Jess, you were such an amazing person on the inside and out, may your fighting spirit always live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved you.

love you. Mean it.



You Came To See A New Post

Instead you got pictures of Draco…

Today was the first nice day we’ve had here where I live in a long time. By nice I mean it was nearly 60 degrees, which may be considered cold depending on your part of the world but for here it is mild.

I had for all intents and purposes planned to sit and write an article on the difficulty of raids in Pokémon Go, perhaps a short story, or an opinionated piece but the sun was strong, the birds were singing, I had a half-day at work and hyper Jack Russell. So instead I walked with my fur baby.

Being able to reconnect with nature and spend time with my four-legged child is critical in my creative process. There are days I have so much to share and days where I have nothing more then photographs from a weekend spent off the grid. I also promised myself I’d write when inspiration struck. I’m keeping that promise, this blog is a labor of love it’s a little bit of everything that makes up who I am as a person.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Some weeks, you get a gold mine, and others? Well others you’ll get pictures of my fur-baby.

Love you. Mean it.



Let’s Be Ultra Friends!

Oh man guys! I been rocking and rolling with Pokémon Go, it’s bad, the last time I was this obsessed with a game it was when NASCAR team racing came out for the original PlayStation but this week was spectacular! My friend Pete and I hit Ultra Friend status during Pokémon Go’s friendship event last weekend.

What’s so great about Ultra Friends and WHY do you want one? Keep reading to find out!

What you gain:

1) 30,000 XP

2) Medium (0.92x) Stardust discount on Trading

3) Medium (1.07x) Gym and Raid attack bonus

4)+2 Raid capture balls

What you need to do:

I work a full time job AND manage a blog so giving of gifts to my buddies was virtually the only way to boost my friendships level (sorry all I’m a busy gal). In sending a gift once a day though to all of your friends, it will increase your friendship score each day. Here’s a useful tip though passed on to me by a friend though, try to alternate opening gifts each day with your friend. If you see a blue halo around their icon you’ve already gotten interaction credit for the day as pictured here:

As stated above, the blue halo means you received credit for interacting with that friend for the day and you should wait till the next day to open their gift. Please keep in mind it will take you 30 days to get to the Ultra friend level so patience is a virtue. The more friends you get the more you will need to spin Poké Stops to collect gifts —oh and you can only hold 10 gifts at a time so if you have lots of friends you’ll need to spin a lot of stops — but it is the tried and tested method. I feel like I should be obligated to note that Poké Stops are not always forthcoming with gifts so just keep at it and you’ll get to the level you need to be.

Gift giving is the only way to become Ultra friends with your Poké Pals from across the globe, I got friends in England, Switzerland, and Japan respectively. The key to upping our friendship level is by sending gifts cause darn oceans have to ruin everything 😉. Just by being persistent with giving and receiving gifts you will eventually reach the Ultra level and you and your friends will be able to battle remotely across the pond.

Battling remotely really is as good as it sounds but until you get to Ultra Friend level you’ll need to up the ante of your friend score through combat, in person. All you need to do is battle your friends at least once a day. I found that battling once a day effectively reduces the time it takes to become Ultra friends by half, meaning it’ll take you 15 days instead of 30, all the while racking up those prizes and getting in a lot of practice for when you start fighting in the leagues.

The final way to increase your friend level quickly is to join together to battle in gyms and raids. I love these experiences because there’s nothing like bonding with people from different walks of life over your love for a game. If you work together once a day you can get a boost to your friend level with each person you are in a Raid or gym battle with. Of course, they have to be your friends to start with, so use your QR code to become friends before you battle.

It should go without saying that this only works with friends you are close to locally but it has the advantage that it works in bulk. A lot of local towns by me have chat groups on Facebook messenger where we plan things so finding your towns chat group is key. If you’ve got six of your friends in a raid with you then all 6 of you will receive a boost to your friend levels. This means you can work together en masse to reach Ultra friend status and get to battling remotely from the comfort of your couch.

The End Game & My Only Gripe

If you do all three of these things, every day, you can dramatically reduce the time it takes to become Ultra friends in Pokemon Go. In doing two of these activities every day, you reduce the amount of time it takes to become Ultra friends to 15 days. By doing three of them every day, you reduce the amount of time it takes to become Ultra Friends to just 10 days. Now get out there and start making some friends!

That’s a huge time saver that will get your fighting with your friends remotely in no time! My only gripe is the only being able to hold ten gifts at a time, as a woman with 55 friends and not the most giving local Poké Stops it would be nice to be able to carry 30 gifts at a time but alas I’m just the peanut gallery. By the way if you haven’t added me-you need to!

Love you. Mean it.



8 Features You Shouldn’t Ignore That Have Been Added Since the Pokémon Go Launch

I haven’t gone to confession in a number of years but but I have a confession. I haven’t played Pokemon Go in 2 and half years. See, after the initial hype died down I felt no longer challenged and at times at a disadvantage because of NOT living in a city environment. I deleted the game and went on with life until a number of my close friends convinced me to give it a go and I must say I’m glad I did. Since the time that I’ve played, there were a lot of exciting features that have helped transform it into a more well-rounded game than I initially realized.

From PVP (player vs player) to trading and even in-game effects caused by the weather in the real world around you, Niantic has turned Pokemon Go into everything envisioned in the original announcement trailer, and in some ways even exceeded it.

As a 90s kid who grew up with Pokémon it is my pleasure to discuss a few of the most exciting features to come to Pokemon Go in the last two and a half years since I played.

1) Friends, Gifts, and Trading

Since my last foray into the popular AR game , Pokemon Go added its first true social media like feature: friends! Every player has their own friend code that you can share with other players. While I only have 9 (add me if you’d like!) I’m told you can add up to 200 friends to your friend list.

Once you’ve exchanged codes and accepted a request, you’ll be able to see your friend’s most recently caught Pokemon, and their stats regarding how many battles they’ve won, how far they’ve walked in the game, and how many Pokemon they’ve caught in total.

Once you’ve added a friend, you’ll be able to achieve one of four Friendship Levels: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. Raising your friendship level will offer various rewards in the game, including lower Stardust costs for trades, extra damage during gym battles alongside a friend, and additional Premiere Balls during raids alongside a friend (nothing is more enriching then taking part in a raid with your best friends).

You can increase your friendship level with a particular friend by sending gifts (see below), trading, and participating in gym battles or raid battles together. Your friendship level can only increase once per day per friend, and this is how long I’ve been told by my friend Pete it takes to achieve each level:

• Good friend: 1 day

• Great friend: 7 days

• Ultra friend: 30 days

• Best friend: 90 days

You can only send ONE GIFT per day but I found if you send a gift at 11:59 PM you can also send another to the same friend at 12:00 AM (God, I love loopholes!).

2) Gift Giving

So you’re probably wondering what I mean by gifts right? Well, PokeStops will now occasionally drop Gifts, which you can send to friends on your list. Gifts will include a “postcard” from the PokeStop where you picked up the gift, as well as a various items such as: stardust, pokeballs, eggs, revive, and potions. Gifts usually also contain a special egg containing some rare Pokemon, depending where in the country or world you’re receiving them from you may get a real gem.

Gifts can also contain bonus Stardust, and don’t worry if you have not enough room in your bag but too many gifts you can delete unsent ones from your inventory (I haven’t, I sent those suckers). Did I mention you’ll also receive 200 XP for each gift you send a friend!?!

3) Trading Pokémon

Along with friends, Pokemon Go also added one of its most-requested features since launch: trading! Only catch is you can only trade with players on your friends list, and you have to be within 200 meters of each other to trade.

Players receive candy bonuses depending on the original catch location of the Pokemon being traded. If the Pokemon were caught far apart, you’ll receive extra candy for the Pokemon you’re trading.

Finally, the HP and CP of Pokemon traded to friends will be reset, resulting in random new stats for the Pokemon you receive. The range of possible HP and CP outcomes can be extremely wide or extremely narrow depending on your friendship levels, with Best Friends much more likely to receive stronger Pokemon.

4) PVP Trainer Battles

If you’ve been away for a super long time, like me, it’s not just trading you’re missing out on! Pokemon Go added its other most requested feature: PVP (Player vs. Player) Trainer Battles.

Starting a trainer battle is pretty easy you just scan a Battle Code. In the ‘Nearby’ menu in the lower right corner of the screen (which normally shows Pokemon and Raids in your area), a new Battle tab allows you to view a Battle Code, which is essentially a QR code featuring your trainer’s avatar.

A player standing close to you can scan your code (or you can scan theirs) in order to initiate a battle. This means you’ll need to be standing directly next to anyone you’re hoping to battle, with one major exception: you’ll be able to battle against your Ultra or Best Friends remotely over the internet.

Pokemon Go Trainer Battles are 1 v. 1, and each player uses a team of three Pokemon. A set of Pokemon will be recommended to you (based on CP and HP levels) but you don’t have to pick what they recommend. Pokémon can be replaced manually, or you can select from one of your pre-made Battle Parties prepared ahead of time.

5) You Can Now Select Your Pokemon and League

Before you can choose your team of Pokemon, you’ll need to decide which League you want to battle in. Trainer Battles will let you decide between three Leagues:

• Great League: Where each Pokemon must be 1,500 CP or under

• Ultra League: Where each Pokemon must be 2,500 CP or under

• Master League: Where each Pokemon have no CP limits

Once the battle begins, it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s tried Raid or Gym battles in the past. You’ll tap to use your Pokemon’s Fast Move, which will build up energy and eventually allow you to use a more powerful Charge Move. In battle, you’ll be able to choose which Charge Move you want to use once you’ve built up enough energy, then you’ll have an additional few seconds to charge it up even more.

During that window, the opposing player will have the option to use a Protect Shield. Each player only gets two of these to use for the entire battle, so you’ll need to be careful in deciding which Pokemon and which attacks to use them against.

At the end of a battle, both players will receive prizes regardless of whether they win or lose, which include the possibility of Stardust or Sinnoh Stones, which allow you to evolve some Generation 4 Pokemon. You can earn these rewards three times per day by battling other players. Battling against a player is also a new option for your once-per-day friendship increase.

Players can also train by fighting against AI-controlled versions of the three Team Leaders (Blanche, Candela, and Spark), which are also accessible via the Battle tab in the Nearby menu. Once per day, players can also earn rewards from this method of training (with the same potential prizes as battles against real players).

6) Dynamic Weather and Pokemon Spawns

Looking at the main screen when you boot up Pokemon Go, the logo in the top right represents the current weather. Weather in Pokemon Go is dynamic and corresponds with the actual real-world weather around you, and it changes every hour.

Eight weather states are currently available in Pokemon Go: rain, wind, snow, fog, sun (daytime), clear (nighttime), cloudy, and partly cloudy.

The in-game weather will affect the Pokemon spawns around you, with certain types more likely to appear in certain conditions and the attack power of certain moves boosted during battles.

Weather has been one of the most significant changes to Go since it launched, completely changing what appears around you and potentially making your neighborhood have different Pokemon day to day. If you could only find Pidgey, Rattata, and Zubat in your house back at launch, you might be surprised by how diverse the Pokemon population has become.

7) Field Research and Special Research

Back on the main screen, you’ll see the pair of binoculars in the bottom right which are how you access Research.

There are two types of research. First, “field” research is something you can complete multiple times per day. These are basic tasks (hatch an egg, catch 10 Pokemon, etc.) that you’ll generally complete during typical play anyway. You can obtain new tasks by spinning any PokeStop, and you can hold up to three at a time (or trash the ones you don’t want). The tasks will either give you items or an encounter with a Pokemon as a reward, with better rewards for harder tasks.

Once per day, the first research task you complete will give you a daily stamp. For every seven stamps you get, you’ll have the chance to open a Research Breakthrough Box, which awards you with an encounter with a rare or legendary Pokemon. Each month gets a different Pokemon, so if you get your seventh stamp on October 31, you’ll get October’s Pokemon if you open the box immediately, or November’s if you wait until the next day.

The second type of research is “special” research, which is the closest thing Pokemon Go has to a story mode. Special research gives you a mission and a series of multiple tasks to complete for a unique reward. Special Research tasks so far have included A Mythical Discovery, which entails completing various sets of tasks in order to encounter Mew, as well as A Ripple in Time to obtain the Mythical Pokemon Celebi, and the Halloween-themed A Spooky Message, which offered the Ghost-type Pokemon Spiritomb.

These missions are peppered with appearances from Professor Willow, who will appear in cut scenes at the end of each step to share some new information and assure you you’re on the right path.

You can hold multiple special research tasks at once, and they’ll never expire, meaning you can start the game right now and begin your quest for Mew or Celebi if you haven’t already, and you’ll still be able to start it even once new special research appears. Each player can only obtain a single Mew and Celebi, and you won’t be able to transfer or trade them, so don’t worry about accidentally losing yours!

8) You Can Participate In Raid Battles and Level Up Quicker Using Lucky Eggs

As you walk through the world, you may see messages pop up periodically that a battle is about to begin nearby, or you may see timers on top of gyms. Both of these are part of the raid battle system that Pokemon Go added since their launch.

If you find a raid before it’s begun, you’ll see an egg on top of a gym with a time countdown to when that egg will eventually hatch into a raid boss. There are five tiers of raids, and the color of the egg corresponds to the difficulty of the Pokemon inside.

Tier one and two raids are in pink eggs, which are the easiest type of raid. You can totally win these alone or with one other person. These are also the levels I recommend you start off with (unlike me who tried taking on a four tier boss alone and it was ugly).

Tier three and four raids are in yellow eggs, which have a wide range of difficulty. In almost every case, a level three raid can be beaten solo by a high level player, but may require the help of a few others depending on your battle party. Tier four raids can be more difficult, but can generally be beaten by five or six players at most.

I’ve read about (but have not see first hand) the Dark eggs which represent legendary raids, from what I gather these are the most difficult to complete. Some legendary Pokemon are easier to battle than others, with high level players able to take down some with just two players, or others requiring closer to a dozen players to defeat. In general, 10 players is a good rule of thumb, especially across a range of different experience levels, and if you have a full raid lobby of 20 players you should have no trouble at all.

The actual process of battling a raid boss will be much, much easier if you take the time to understand attack types. For example, knowing that a water-type Pokemon does super effective damage to a fire-type since fire is weak to water may sound simple, but there are extra factors that can help you do even more damage. STAB (or Same Type Attack Bonus) means that a Pokemon will do extra damage if they’re using moves that match their own type, and understanding movesets and damage output is important if you want to defeat a raid boss with a small group.

After you beat a raid boss, you’ll get a few raid items, then have a chance at a bonus challenge, which allows you to try to capture the Pokemon you just fought. Depending on how much damage you did and which team currently controls the gym where you battled, you’ll receive a set number of Premiere Balls at the end of the raid, and these are the only balls you’ll be able to use to catch the Pokemon. If you run out of balls, the Pokemon will flee, or if you catch it with extra balls leftover, you won’t get to keep your extras.

If you want to try out a raid, you get ONE free raid pass a day by visiting any gym. Otherwise it’s invitation only. If you’re trying to level up, raids are also one of the fastest way to gain XP in the game, so if you have any Lucky Eggs (which double all of the XP you earn for 30 minutes) in your inventory, I highly recommend you use them!

Overall from what I have gathered Pokémon Go has made drastic improvements which have made playing so much more easier and fun. If you, like me, have been away from the game for a while then I highly recommend re-downloading it and giving it another try.

Love you. Mean it.