Category Archives: The Squeeze

Road Trip: Baton Rouge edition.

Louisiana oak trees.

I took a road trip to Baton Rouge this weekend. Yes, it’s a route I’ve traveled many times before – however, I haven’t done it in a whole year. Truthfully, because I kept having to make that trip before (because of CASA volunteer obligations), I’m sure I turned myself off of it.

But when a friend announced he was making a big move (13+ hours away), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to hop in the car and go for a drive.

I needed a place to stay for one night, so I slapped in on Facebook, and within one minute I had an offer from a sorority sister whom I haven’t seen in several years. I took her up on her offer, and spent Friday night doing a little baking, packing road trip snacks (fruit, cheese, trail mix, of course), and packing my clothes.

I’d also given my car a little love with an extensive oil and three-filter change, plus a tire repair, and even a tire replacement. I was ready!

I hit the road at 8am on Saturday, which would put me in Baton Rouge around 3pm provided there wasn’t much traffic or bad weather. I’ve made this trip so many times to know it rarely takes the 6.5 hours Google Maps says.

But, I was in no hurry. I didn’t have to be anywhere specific until 9pm, so whatever. I used the car time to catch up on my favorite Radio Andy shows: Reality Checked, Jim Parsons is Too Stupid for Politics, and Dan Rather’s America.

I also listened to some Dispatch I got from the library (I’m seeing them in concert next week), and made it about halfway through an audio book.

The drive from Austin to Baton Rouge is mostly farm land – especially during the Texas half of the trip. Lots of cows, steers, and neatly rolled hay. I am a sucker for these types of views.

I made it to Baton Rouge a little before 3:30, and was so happy to see my hostess, Sarah, along with her son – both of whom had just survived his birthday party. We spent the afternoon visiting, and were treated to pork chops from Iverstine Farms, along with some fancy rose Sarah discovered on Instagram. It was a perfect Saturday evening.

Already buzzed, I headed to the goodbye gathering at a nearby bar, where I took advantage of the cheap, local beer. I do miss Abita!

It was fantastic to visit with my friend and see some familiar faces, I didn’t realize just how much I needed that feeling of comfort – that feeling of home.

The fact is, I wasn’t born and raised in Louisiana. I’m from Indiana, where I’m traveling at the end of this week. And while I have spent years calling Indiana home, I don’t know if that word is the right one.

Yes, I spent 18 years there. But I spent 12 in Louisiana. And you know… I grew up, big time, in Louisiana. I survived a culture shock, had my first serious heartbreak (on top of many others), endured multiple hurricanes, got my first apartment, my first job out of college… it’s easy to say that a lot of things about me where shaped in Louisiana.

So many of my friends there are like family, and when 95% of my family doesn’t talk to me – friends are all I’ve got.

I don’t regret leaving Baton Rouge – it needed to happen, for the sake of my career, my creativity, and still for my sanity. And I know the chances of living in Louisiana again are slim-to-none. But it’s always going to hold a really special place in my heart.

I left Baton Rouge at 10am on Sunday – and was met with some pretty heavy traffic and construction on the drive back. Pair that with a decent headache from my Saturday festivities (when in Baton Rouge…), and it made for a less than stellar trip, but I made it safe, and I even got a Diet Cherry Coke – so we’re putting that down as a WIN in my book.

It was a quick and fun weekend – a much-needed, heart-fulfilling trip. I’ve got another one coming up this week, and well, I’ve been sort of harboring the story around that for awhile. I’ll spill it here later (this week), but I’ve still got to find the words to explain it.

So, cheers to tired Mondays – as long as the soul is full.

Life in the ‘Soap Opera’.

Grab your powdered soap!

On Sunday, I went to the laundromat, and I realized something – the laundromat has been a staple in my life for much longer than I realized.

I remember going to the laundromat as a kid; I also remember not liking it, even though it involved absolutely no work on my end. The place was sort of old, and the TVs only had news channels playing.

As I grew older, my parents moved into homes with washers and dryers (although we did have a clothesline in at least one of my backyards). I learned, and did, my own laundry in middle school.

Once I got to college, the dorms had a laundry room, but it only had two washers and two dryers – I quickly learned that going off campus was probably my best bet. I also heard way too many horror stories about cute guys in the laundry room seeing co-ed underwear or whatever. I wasn’t having it.

There was a place just a few blocks off-campus called “The Soap Opera”, and to this day, that still has to be the best name for a laundromat, ever. It was on the edge of campus, near an area that was a tad rough.

But whatever, I showed up with my quarters, powdered soap, and one of those collapsable hampers full of my dirty clothes. I followed the directions printed on the washing machine: add clothes, add soap, add coins, start.

Nothing happened.

I waved over the attendant; an older, thin woman with graying hair.

“I don’t know what happened,” I said. “The water just isn’t coming out.”

She opened the lid, looked inside, and let the lid drop with a loud “thud.” Then she slammed her fist onto the lid, and with that, the water started.

“Sometimes you just have to give it that extra somethin’,” she said.

It was a moment I’ll never forget, and I continued washing my clothes there until I found a washer and dryer elsewhere – usually at a sorority sister’s house who was willing to share.

Once I got my own apartment, I enjoyed the luxury of having my own washer and dryer, but when I was looking for apartments, I decided that a washer and dryer was something I’d be willing to give up (on top of other things) in trade for a lower rent payment.

Currently, my apartment has a big closet housing a washer and dryer hookup, but I use it for storage (a filing cabinet, Christmas decor, and a crafting table). I told myself I would simply go to the laundromat for as long as I could stand it, and if I really started to hate it – I could look into renting the appliances or be watchful for a sale.

But, here I am almost two years later, and I still am okay with going to my laundromat, “The Washatopia” (leave it to laundromats for the clever names). The place is clean, it takes a little card so I don’t have to worry about quarters, plus there’s free wifi – and there’s lots of TVs. And yes, they show the news, which is enjoyable 25 years later.

Going to the laundromat makes laundry a task that I simply just DO and it takes around two hours from loading my car, driving there, washing, driving, hanging, and heading home. When I’ve had a washer and dryer at home, it seemed to take foreverrrrrr – and I also don’t have to worry about the appliances racking up my water or electric bills, or anything breaking down.

Plus, there’s always a lot of great people watching to be had at the laundromat. It’s really a win-win, so don’t be shocked if my next novel has a plot at a place like “The Soap Opera”.

2017 Goals: A progress report, II.

We’re halfway through the year – how are your goals shaping up?

It’s June, and that means we’re halfway through 2017 ALREADY! When I set my goals for the year I was thinking about how so many people simply set goals on New Year’s Eve and basically never revisit them, and before they know it, the year has passed.

I don’t want that to be me this year. So, I’m going to hold myself accountable and do some progress reports on the blog. I already think this miiiiight be a little embarrassing, but maybe it will light a fire under my booty to get things moving.

I wrote a list of goals at the end of 2016, which I published here, and today I’m going to revisit this same list and tell you if I’ve made any progress on it.

Here goes:

GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017. 

PROGRESS: The last time I wrote this progress report, I hadn’t really done much for this goal. But this time, I’m happy to report I have. Not only have I tried to remain calm in frustrating situations, but I also ran into a fellow dancer who was short a few cents while trying to buy a protein bar. I happily put a dollar on the counter for him.

GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.

This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.

PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this for ALL of 2017, and I’ll be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with this blog. I’m sorry!

GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!

When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.

PROGRESS: I’m kicking this one’s ass. I’ve already booked my second vacation of the year, and I’ve even “just gone for it” in terms of medical tests that I 100% would have backed out on before. On my vacation to Vegas, I totally just went for it when my friend suggested a rollercoaster ride. It was worth it, but if I had thought about it any longer, I would have talked myself out of it.

GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.

PROGRESS: This is slowly coming, although if you have ideas or tips on how to achieve this goal, I’m all for it.

GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.

PROGRESS: I’m 90% of the way through cleaning my closet, and I have lots of things to giveaway. However, I have replaced many of the items to give away. I wanted to look forward to getting dressed each morning before work. Now, I am excited to see the clothes in my closet and make a choice on what to wear, based on my mood.

GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.

PROGRESS: Eh, this one still needs work. However, I have been trying to make time for me in the form of a weekly soak in the tub, making time for a nice facial mask several times a week, and had a nice manicure and pedicure about a month ago. It felt wonderful!

GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.

Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies! 

PROGRESS: Yes – I’m still living by this motto, but it’s a constant effort, and I’m sure I’ll be reminding myself of this rule a time or two.

…So, it’s safe to say I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m also doing okay. What are your goals for 2017 and how are they coming along? It’s certainly not too late to jump on them and cross some big items off your to-do list before the year is over!

I can see clearly (in two weeks).

Another doctor appointment.

As I continue on my journey to hit up all the appropriate doctors on my mission to feel healthy and on top of my life, I went to the eye doctor yesterday to have an exam. It’s probably been about three years since my last eye exam (I know, bad), and I could feel that my eyes have been straining lately.

Let me set the record straight here and say that I got my first pair of glasses when I was in second grade. They had thick, round purple frames, with green on the sides. In 8th grade, I started wearing contacts. Every time I’ve gone to the eye doctor, my prescription indicates my eyes are worsening – despite multiple doctors saying “At some point this will level off”, and “you’re nowhere near being legally blind” – both statements completely untrue.

So, I went to the doctor yesterday knowing I needed a stronger prescription. I opted to get a prescription for both contacts and glasses, knowing I’d buy my glasses online (I love EyeBuyDirect).

The exam began, with the prescription exam, the eye puff, and some pictures of my eye. When I saw the doctor, she made a comment about how my prescription was “low”. Uhh, no? She then proceeded to ask me to read the letters on the wall, which I could generally see just fine.

Because I still had my contacts in! No one had asked me to remove them. “Why do you wear contacts?” she asked, implying my eyesight was near-perfect. Yeah, I said, because my contacts are still in.

Sooooo I had to do the entire exam again after taking out my contacts. Then she realized just how bad my eyes were, and I even felt like she was getting frustrated with just how poor my eyesight was. “You’re getting really high up there,” she said, as she was going through the switches – 1 or 2? 2 or 3?

But I can’t help it – it’s important I get the right prescription, obviously. Once we got the prescription nailed down, she took a look at the pictures of my eye and concluded I needed them dilated due to the nature of my high prescription.

Honestly, I’ve never had my eyes dilated, so I was asking a lot of questions about the procedure, and trying to decide whether or not I could/should drive after because I needed to get back to work. She said it would be fine, so I agreed (after all, my motto for 2017 is to “just do it”).

After she put the drops in, she instructed me to walk into the lobby to sit and wait for my eyes to fully dilate. What may be difficult to understand here is just how poor my eyesight is. Without my glasses or contacts, I can’t see much at all.

So, asking me to walk anywhere without said eyewear + dilation drops is an issue. But I hobbled in and felt my way to a chair. I was sitting there, quietly, probably staring off into space, when a woman at the front desk was all, “Ma’am, ma’am??”

“Are you talking to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I cannot see you.”

…Like are you serious? I could barely see my own body, let alone another person standing 25 feet away.

“Oh, are you dilating?” she asked.

I nodded. Luckily it wasn’t long before I was called back into the doctor’s office for the last part of the exam. She concluded my eyes were okay – although at high-risk for retinal detachment (common for people with high prescriptions).

Naturally, they didn’t have my contacts in stock, so I have to wait for them to come in and have them fitted, which hopefully will be in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to order a new pair of glasses – I’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, and am hoping to get these:

I’ve got my eye on these.

…And in just a few weeks I’ll be seeing clearly… that is, until my next eye exam!

Today, I just wanted to… write.

I neeeeed a typewriter.

Howdy! I’m sitting in my bed (my usual blogging spot), I’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’ve got a mud mask on… and it’s about time I just wrote something.

You may recall that last week, I finished up another semester of teaching Blogging for Beginners at UT – and while it’s a time-consuming additional to my full-time gig, it never fails to teach me SO much about the craft of writing (and blogging).

I have realized lately that my life is so full of words and content – perhaps more full than it has ever been. I’m creating content 40+ hours a week for my job. I have to fill Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and a blog, with fresh content all week – and sometimes every single day (I post around 12 tweets a day for work).

I also have this blog, plus I read, and watch TV, aaaand I’ve been doing freelance editing sometimes on the weekend. That = a TON of words! Which, is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I haven’t had a chance to get away from the noise to actually think for myself.

One thing creatives can do to keep their juices flowing is to make time for activities that don’t involve words; such as listening to music (without words), taking nature walks, or simply relaxing in the tub without distractions. It’s times like these when our brain actually gets to wander to the places it wants to go – it’s why we often come up with great ideas in the shower or during the night.

But I’ve been a bad creative and haven’t made time for activities like these. Currently, I have no blog strategy, have barely Tweeted on my personal account in weeks, and well, my SnapChat game? It’s suffering.

Truth be told, I worry that I’m coming down with content-overload. Did I turn a fun hobby into something I can only see as WORK by taking a job in social media? It’s certainly possible.

It’s easy for me to say that 2017 has already just been full of surprises! I kicked off the year with a new career, but also with a newfound fatigue – actual physical exhaustion. While I am awaiting confirmation that it’s nothing physical, I have always been able to rely on my creative mind.

But now… now what? I am still trying to get my butt to bed at a decent hour so I’m not dragging the following day, and I’ve found myself without many ideas to jot into my little notebook – I feel… I feel boring!

Pair that with a picture of me in bed on a heating pad this weekend after three hours of dance, and it may start to click: maybe this is just 32? My birthday is in a month, after all.

I know, I know, this probably all sounds so dramatic. But the feeling is real.

And so, I’m not sure how many writers how there read this, but if so, I’d love to know what you do when you’ve reached true writer’s block? Is there an activity or routine that brings light into your mind? I’d love to hear about it!

I know this is a feeling that will pass – I probably just need to take a good walk, or throw myself into an experience that brings out my inner thoughts. It’ll come – but until then, stick with my posts about TV shows, books, and food.

Hey, it’s all part of the journey.

A rare opportunity…

Bad ass choreographer, dancer Nika Kljun!

Each year, some of the best choreographers, dancers, and studio owners get together for a weekend benefit that raises money in hopes of finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. The event – Dance to Breathe – is pretty unique, but I probably wouldn’t have known about it had I not been involved with my studio.

Last year when the event came around, I was excited to see what it was all about and see my fellow classmates perform in the final show. It was at that show that, not only did I learn much more about CF, I also realized how lucky I am to be a part of my studio – not to brag, but I’m learning from some of the BEST in this city (if not the country).

As part of this benefit, there is usually a celebrity choreographer that comes to town to teach a master class. Last year, I was scraping by all of my spare dollars and sending them to the IRS, so I couldn’t attend the master class. This year however, I’ve already paid my taxes, so I was anxiously awaiting the reveal of the guest choreographer.

It was none other than Nika Kljun – here’s her resume from her website:

She has worked on major projects such as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Ne-yo, Pitbull, T-Pain, One Direction, Cher Lloyd, the Britney Spears tribute on MTV Video Music Awards, Jessica Sanchez, Donna Summer, Kaya Jones, Gina Katon, Matt Pokora, Herb Alpred, Macy’s Glamorama fashion tour, Monsters of hip hop, Billboard Music Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, NRJ music awards, X-Factor USA, UK & France, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Move Live on Tour and was just recently, for the year of 2015, a part of Justin Bieber’s dancing team.

As a choreographer or assistant she worked on projects such as So You Think You Can Dance in the USA, Ukraine & Portugal, Move Live on Tour with Derek & Julianne Hough, Dancing with the Stars, Kellogg’s summer campaign, Kaya Jones, Lena Katina, Blake McGrath, Victoria Bech and Monsters of Hip Hop show to name a few. You can catch Nika at Tremaine Dance Conventions, Monster of Hip Hop or Monsters A-list conventions around North America. 

…Like… are you kidding me? She’s an insanely talented dancer – and highly trained in traditional forms of dance, which makes her hip hop game solid. I’ll admit, though, that I was a little bit nervous to buy a ticket for her master class. I know that I’m late in my dance game.

I started taking jazz classes in middle school – and that is where my technical training ends. I danced on a competitive dance team for five years – being captain for two of those years. We were scrappy, and I recall very late nights at the studio, or in hallways, recounting and modifying movements to look sharp.

But I took a solid 10+ year break from dance. In that time, my body has changed, and parts of it have taken quite a beating between boxing training for four years, full-time retail and restaurant service work, and generally just getting older.

I know I struggle to pick up choreography quickly (although I am getting better), and I feel heavy on my feet. I have been to auditions and am learning to accept that even if I don’t make it (and I never have), it’s a free opportunity to learn from someone new, and at least try.

Sometimes, even if I can just get 1 8-count in a set of 7, I am really proud of myself, because the difficulty level is so far beyond me. Trying counts for something.

Many of my fellow dancers said they were taking Nika’s class, even if it meant standing in the back. Yeah, I thought, I’m going, too.

“You’ll walk away learning something,” one instructor told me. And he was right.

So, I bought my ticket. I woke up the day before the class with a classic flare-up of my pinched nerve. Because of course! But, I took my normal Saturday class, laid on a heating pad for three hours, popped a pain-killer, and headed downtown to meet Nika.

Right off the bat, I was pleasantly shocked at how nice she was – how much she simply wanted to help us learn and have fun. She taught us a combination from Jennifer Lopez’s tour, which was just cool to see.

I have never, ever tried any of the classic ballroom dancing, and she showed us the cha-cha, and salsa, and simply said, “Now you can watch ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and really know what they are doing!”

It was tough, and I struggled, and I stayed in the back. But, I gave it all I had and I pushed myself. Yes, a lot of people in the class were KILLING it. But many of them were also 16 – ah, to be young and thin and energetic!

Nonetheless, it was a humbling experience, and it makes me respect the hustle for choreographers and dancers. This is a physical industry – there’s no half-assing it if you’re on tour with Justin Bieber.

When the class was over, I was tired and sweaty, and snapped a picture with Nika, giving her a big thanks. I felt twice her size, but it’s whatever. I went home and had a solid night’s sleep – I suppose that’s what happens when you dance your ass off for almost three hours, pretending you’re JLo!

The power of words(?).

Should we censor ourselves for the sake of others?

A little more than a month ago, I was teaching my blogging class at UT. It was the first class of the semester, and it was going just as planned. After class, I sent the students a copy of the Power Point presentation I used.

Less than an hour later, one of my students replied the message, saying they thought I was great and definitely qualified for the class, but that if my “profanity” was going to continue to be a part of the class experience, then she wanted to withdraw and get a refund.

Immediately, I felt TERRIBLE. Of course I don’t consider profanity to be an integral part of my course. I thought back to my class and tried to remember what I’d said that was so offensive to this student.

I replied to the student apologizing, and said that it was not a part of my course, and I would keep things clean for the remainder of the semester. I thanked her for letting me know, and tried to sleep.

But that was nearly impossible. I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d said in class – was I that big of a piece of trash that I couldn’t remember what cuss words I said just a few hours before?

I spent the next 24 hours really thinking about cuss words, and how they fit into my life. I know it sounds a little silly, but once I started thinking about it, I realized that I’ve been allowed to say whatever I want for most of my life.

I cuss around my friends, parents, coworkers, and have honestly really never had a job that’s said anything to me about the words I choose. And that’s just it – I think words have the meaning we assign to them, and I’ve definitely had people say things to me that were offensive and hurtful but didn’t contain any curse words.

The morning after I replied to the student, she wrote me back and said thank you and that she would see me in the next class. I felt relieved, but I also knew I had to do my best not to say anything bad, and it may sound easy but I’ve really never censored myself.

I tossed the scenario around some of my friends and family, and they thought it was all silly. The class is all adults, and you never know what you’re going to sign up for, and as long as you’re not calling anyone a bitch, then what’s the deal?

Well yes, I agreed, but I also know that cussing can come across as unprofessional, and I didn’t want anyone to complain to UT and have me lose my job because of it. I wondered if I should apologize to the entire class, because if one student felt this way, possibly more did? NO, everyone told me to just keep things clean and move on.

A few days later, I was taking a dance class, when the instructor told us that she considers it her personal policy to not play songs that have cuss words in them during her classes. What?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand where she is coming from, but I also don’t believe in editing art, and not every song has an edited version – so that means there are songs out there that we’ll just NEVER get to dance to, provided we keep taking her class.

I wanted to laugh at how crazy the timing was on this, but I wondered if it wasn’t just another case of the “summer of the shark” – that I was paying more attention to these types of things since The Incident with my student.

The following week, at class, the student I’d been emailing with arrived a few minutes late, and only stayed for about five minutes before leaving for the remainder of class. I still kept it clean, and I actually didn’t cuss at all for the rest of the semester.

The student? She still dropped out after emailing me asking what time class started, and then emailing me the following week to tell me she was dropping out.

The rest of the semester with my remaining students was great. And I get it, everyone is offended by their own things. But I also think it’s important to pick your battles. I know I’m not a very good public speaker, but it’s also not my job to be one. I’m an informal course teacher – which means I’ve never been trained on how to teach, I just have a passion for something that I want to share with others. If I drop a few bombs during it, then sure, I’ll apologize, but I can’t apologize for just being me.

Adulting: Score one more for me.

Facing fears and going to the doctor!

I know I’ve talked quite a bit about my health this year, particularly about handling some extreme fatigue I was experiencing in January and February. While I have been feeling better – after sticking to a diet and a sleeping pill – I still knew it was time I buck up and go to the doctor.

Since I changed jobs at the beginning of the year, I also changed insurance companies. This was a great time to make all the rounds, so on Monday, I had an appointment with my OBGYN for a wellness exam. Every time I go to these exams, my doctor asks me if I am open for doing lab work, and I always either find some excuse not to (whoops, didn’t fast today…) or I just casually walk out of the office.

I’m serious! I’m not necessarily afraid of needles or blood…but more so just all things medical. But because of this fear, I do not have any idea what’s happening inside my body. Cholesterol? Vitamin D? Thyroid? I have never had anything tested, so I’m clueless.

Now that I work in the healthcare industry, I’m much more privy to how things work, and to top it off, I’ve educated myself on all this AHCA nonsense, so I’m learning a lot about insurance and what’s covered, etc. It’s a fascinating world.

So, when I scheduled my wellness exam and they said to fast beforehand, I told myself yes, I’m going to do it, and if they offer to do labs then I’m just going to go for it (#2017Goals) – no making another appointment, no freaking out, hell, no walking out – just DO it.

Sure enough, right after asking me how I was doing, she asked if I needed labs. Yes, I said. Everything you’ve got. So, after my women’s exam, she directed me down the hall to the lab, where, right out in the open, a nurse was drawing blood.

It was basically my worst nightmare, but I looked the other way, and it was over in like 30 seconds?! I kind of can’t believe I was so scared for that! I know it’s so small, but I felt so proud of myself and I still do. To top it off, when I went to pickup my prescription last night, I was prepped to pay $160 for a month’s supply under my new insurance. But, to my delight, it was $0 and my doctor had given me a three-month supply. Major score!!

I’m really trying to take charge of my health, and this is one step in the right direction. By just a few seconds of fear and pain, I am going to get results on my thyroid, cholesterol, and vitamin D levels. Sure, I hope they’re fine, but if not, I can start doing what I can to fix it.

I have always been grateful to have good health, but I think loosing a close family friend this year really drove that home. I don’t have to take lots of medications just to feel normal. I don’t have to avoid certain foods or activities; I can pretty much do whatever I want and I’m okay. But I know I may not always be this lucky, and it’s about time I start paying attention to what’s happening with my body.

I’ve already gotten one test result back and it was good, so we’ll see how the others go. If you’re on the fence about something health-related, just get it done! I feel so much better that it’s out of the way, and now that I’m about to be in the KNOW, I can continue to get healthier and healthier.

Taking steps for Crohn’s.

Take Steps for Crohn’s!

Howdy! I’m still recovering from a two-day work trip to Dallas, and the weekend. I didn’t get back from my trip until Friday night, and still had some loose-ends to tie up before it was really the weekend, but I didn’t waste much time drinking a beer and falling into bed. I had to be up at a reasonable hour for Austin’s leg of the “Take Steps” – a walk to raise money for a cure for Crohn’s disease.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. While I am SO, so grateful for everyone who sponsored me (I raised $175 toward the cure), no one agreed to walk by my side. So, I woke up on Saturday morning to find it was storming quite heavily in Austin. Nonetheless, I ate, got dressed, and drove 20 minutes to the expo center.

I checked in, soaking wet, and got all sorts of free swag because of the amount of money I raised. I still had an hour before the actual walk started, and there wasn’t much for me to do – there were plenty of things for kids to do, but I sort of slinked away and tried to kill time listening to podcasts and staring off into the rain.

I thought about Cheryl, my friend who died after fighting with Crohn’s. She was my reason for walking on Saturday. Truthfully, I felt like a jerk. She did everything with a smile, and there I was – a grouch. But, I wondered if she was with me in spirit then, and possibly laughing at the fact that this walk was indeed inside a barn, and I was about to embark on a dusty, dirt path in brand new sneakers.

I also wondered why I’d never walked before; why had I not supported my friend when she was alive to see it? The truth is, she made Crohn’s look easy when it probably was not. I know everyone’s experience with it is different, but I know her battle was difficult at times.

As my hour-long wait came to an end, they invited everyone over to the stage. They called up some of the big donors, introduced doctors in the area to help those with Crohn’s and similar diseases, asked those diagnosed to come to the stage, and introduced their “Hero” – a boy who was probably 14-ish, and had been undergoing treatments for years. He spoke, and said his doctor found a treatment that worked for him and put his Crohn’s in remission… until his body developed antibodies to it, and now he was on something new. And while this treatment helped, he said, it was not an eliminator. Our money is working to possibly create an eliminator – and together, Austin raised $62,000+ for the cause.

And with that, we walked. It was a short walk, but I’m glad I did it – for Cheryl, but also for myself. I often take my health for granted, and it was very eye-opening to see others around me who have to work hard and take lots of medications to even try to feel normal. I can’t imagine.

But, my fight for Crohn’s isn’t over. I’m walking again, in a month, in Indianapolis, to raise more money and honor Cheryl once again. And if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join me. To join my mom’s team with me, please click here. I hope to see you there!

Creating style while approaching 32.

Dream life.

Since the start of 2017, I have slowly been going through my closet, getting rid of items that don’t belong anymore. But it’s not just about the items that I haven’t worn, it’s more about the ones that don’t fit, and those that I just should NOT wear.

In general, it has taken me years to figure out what my style is, and when I can’t afford that look verbatim, how to look for pieces that I can afford and get good wear out of. But many of those pieces are now old, and they’re showing it in the form of underarm stains, tiny holes, missing buttons, and those annoying little balls of thread or fuzz.

As of now, I have two brown grocery bags full of items to get rid of – which I know doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. When I moved to Austin at the end of 2015, I got rid of many of my “professional” clothing items since my job attire was very casual. Since then, though, I filled my closet with more casual clothes. But as I look through my closet, I find I wear the same type of thing all the time – and rarely am I excited to get dressed in the morning.

Love this denim + heels combo.

So, as I take inventory, it’s not just pulling out one item of clothing and deciding right then and there, I have actually been wearing some of the items in my “maybe” pile, and seeing how they fit throughout my day. I added a shirt last week after wearing it to work and realizing it was uncomfortably short (it was also a shirt I bought almost 10 years ago, FYI). As I write this, I’m wearing a grey pencil skirt that’s going directly into my brown bags – it’s too tight; so tight I couldn’t get the top button into the loop and compromised with a long tank top. See what I mean?

As I get rid of items, I have slowly started to buy new things that are (hopefully) a better fit to my current body, and my current style. But, as I’ve been shopping, I’ve realized two things: 1. I think I’m smaller than I actually am, and 2. I have a habit of buying things that aren’t perfect.

That’s right, I have body dysmorphia in the backward way – I actually think I’m smaller than I am, which is great for my self-esteem, but bad for shopping. On Sunday, I spent three hours in ONE store, trying a pile of clothes on – most of which were too small. Why?

Honestly, I shopped a lot when I was in high school, probably because I had much more of a disposable income then (plus money from my parents). After that, I hit a long period where I didn’t have money to shop at all, and also went through some weight fluctuation. It’s very likely that I straight up do not know what size I am, and just go for what I know, which is often too small. It doesn’t help that the sizing charts for companies vary; I’m a medium in some brands and a small in others, and when it comes to swimsuits, I’m an XL (we’ll touch on this later).

I have always loved K-Cav’s effortless style.

As I was trying on item after item on Sunday, I would tell myself, “Oh I could get this, but I’ll have to resew the button”, or, “this needs to be hemmed”… and I finally just said no, I’m not buying it unless I can wear it as-is right after I walk out of this store. That meant out of the 20 items I tried on, I bought four, but they were four items that I am really excited to wear, so I’m happy I was picky.

Another truth is that as I get older, I’m trying to find out what types of things I should wear. Yes, I know, we should all just wear whatever we want, but, I want to look my best and flatter my body as best possible. I’m not 25 anymore, and I can’t wear the same types of things I did then – and I’m okay with this, but it means looking a little more.

For example, shoes. Summers for me have always meant flip-flops – not anything remotely expensive or nice; I’m talking shower shoes from the Dollar Tree. But… I don’t have cute feet; and I’ve also spent all this time crafting the perfect outfit, do I really want to slap on the flip-flops? No. So, I’m currently on a hunt for cute, flat sandals that will flatter my feet: maybe some metallic, strappy ones.

Another example is swimsuits. I used to live by Target-brand string bikinis… in my twenties. While they looked cute then, I just don’t have that body anymore. It doesn’t matter how many vegan meals I eat, dance classes I slay, or bottles of water I guzzle, a woman’s body changes, and mine certainly has. I have tried to always embrace my curves, and hunting for the right swimsuit has certainly been a challenge. I need underwires and significant straps to support my bust, and I need full coverage for my butt. No “cheeky” bottoms for this girl! I recently ordered a cute, patterned one-piece from Old Navy that has underwires, adjustable straps, and a full-coverage bottom that looks promising. We’ll see!

Love this look for summer!

If you follow me on Pinterest (which you should), you may have noticed that my general style is a little bit of boho, a little bit of sparkle, and a little mix of feminine with masculine – I love mixing a boy blazer with red lipstick or boyfriend jeans with high heels. I also have an affinity for jackets & scarves.

Speaking of accessories, that’s another thing I’ve been taking inventory of. I used to pride myself on my collection of jewelry… but it was jewelry from Charlotte Russe and Charming Charlie’s. While I certainly loved some of those pieces, they have overstayed their welcome and are either highly off-trend or tarnished. New note to self, spend a little more cash on timeless pieces that will last.

I’ve started to replace some of my jewelry pieces, and wow, it’s way more overwhelming than I recall. I don’t even know where to begin with the statement necklaces and all the earring options and have since decided that it’s probably best just to buy jewelry for specific outfits.

So, yes, I may be a little late to the fashion-in-your-thirties-game (I’d love to hear how you all are tackling it), but I’m learning that it’s constant upkeep. No wonder people are shopping all the time, right? I hope this post doesn’t come across as superficial; but it has always been important to me to look presentable, and to be able to express myself through clothes that make me feel confident, no matter what day it is or where I’m going.

I’ll continue to keep you posted on my fashion and style journey – until then, I’ll be scouring the sales racks and trying on piles and piles of clothes!

Still, I resist.

Image from ‘We the Protestors’.

I know I said I would try my best to keep this blog a place where people could escape from politics, and essentially, get away from negativity. But at some point, my silence is complicity, and that is something for which I will not stand.

You may recall last July, when I finally broke my silence after Alton Sterling was murdered in Baton Rouge. It was a week of frustration and heartbreak, and I was at the end of my rope. I saw so much victim-blaming and I was ready to stand on my roof and yell “F the police!”

Here’s a snippet from the post:

I woke up nearly two hours before my alarm on Tuesday, and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I started scrolling through my Twitter feed. I saw the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag had gained popularity and I knew it: another innocent black man had lost his life to the bullet of a police officer.

And sure enough, that was the case for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’ve all heard his story by now, I’m sure. Soon, most of us will be able to sweep him under the rug just as we’ve done before; just like we did for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, among several others.

As white people, we’re granted the ability to forget about incidents such as these, because we don’t understand the struggle blacks have continued to go through. Introducing white privilege: White privilege is the systemic construct that grants unearned advantages to people based solely on skin color. This definition is significant in that often people see how race puts people of color at a disadvantage, but seldom see the corollary of white skin advantage.

Read the entire post here.

Last Tuesday night, I had a similar, frustrated feeling when I saw the news that there would be no charges against the Baton Rouge police officers who murdered Mr. Sterling, even after the US Department of Justice completed an independent investigation. It was the first case under Jeff Sessions, who airs his racial prejudices openly.

Days after the decision to not press charges, chilling details emerged about the 90-second exchange between Mr. Sterling and two police officers (along with six bullets). “A law enforcement source confirmed that Salamoni calls Sterling both a ‘bitch’ and a ‘motherf*****’ while threatening to “shoot” him in the head if he doesn’t comply” (source).

The reactions to drop charges in Baton Rouge had mixed reactions online, where I saw several activists even saying they “weren’t surprised” this was the outcome. That broke my heart. Many people said Mr. Sterling deserved to die because he had prior charges, and/or because he wasn’t permitted to carry the handgun he had in his pocket. But none of that justifies his death, and it doesn’t answer the bigger problem: institutional racism.

That same week last July, America watched live as Philando Castile, a black man, was murdered by a white police officer. Castile was stopped for having a broken tail light. The officer asked Castile to show him his license and registration, and Castile told the officer he was armed (please note that Castile did have a permit to carry a gun). Then he died – and it was all aired on Facebook Live (source).

In February, his murderer plead not guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The trial date is set for May 30.

About a week ago, the country learned that Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer. The police officer has since been arrested for Edwards’ murder (source).

The narrative surrounding Edwards was mostly about how great he was – how he made the honor roll. And while that’s fantastic, and sad, it shouldn’t matter what kind of person he was or the grades he made for his life to matter. He was riding in a car, leaving a party – neither of which are illegal, and they’re certainly worthy of getting murdered.

But this is the narrative that works to uphold institutional racism. With Trayvon, they said he wasn’t that great of a student – he smoked weed – he stole things; with Alton, they said he had past charges and was convicted of molestation; comply, don’t die, they say.

But what does the narrative become when you comply? What does it become when you make straight A’s? When you’re sober? When you’re wearing a seatbelt in the backseat of a car?

It’s about being black in America.

I spent a portion of my workday yesterday at the Texas Capitol, taking pictures of women dressed as Handmaids to draw attention to the 30+ anti-abortion bills that have worked themselves into the legislation session this year.

Since I started my job in January – I work as the Digital Communications Manager for a national abortion clinic – I’ve learned a lot about how the government has set itself up against women. Frankly, unless you’re a white male, you’re pretty much doomed to fail in this country.

As far as abortion goes, the anti-choicers have created a narrative that shames women into thinking abortion is immoral, among other things. The narrative uses false stories and urban legends to support their case – a case that is medically inaccurate. There will never be a time when abortion is gone – it will just be illegal, and unsafe.

Since the AHCA passed, I took a look at what it outlines – and it says that rape is considered a pre-existing condition, on top of having a c-section, and having irregular periods.

So, if you’re a woman, you don’t qualify for insurance. And if you’ve been raped, you’ll either have to shame yourself into not saying anything so you can get coverage, or say something and pay out-of-pocket for your medical care.

I know that this one blog post may not make a change, but I was so upset by politics, and the world, last week that I couldn’t continue on without saying something. Because if you just stand by while all of this continues, you’re part of the problem.

But, since I had training on dialogue about institutional racism, and since I’ve started working in abortion care, I have learned just how much change I can make with my voice. Talking creates noise. When I share my opinions with others, I am letting them know what I believe and what I stand for. Even just introducing myself and saying I work in abortion is enough to spark a conversation and let someone know where I stand, and what I’m not willing to tolerate.

So, I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again: Black lives still matter, and Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

Yep, I just geeked out over groceries.

Introducing Whole Foods’ 365 stores.

Friday after work, I decided to venture slightly north to an area of Texas I’ve come to know well – Cedar Park, near where the Texas Stars hockey team plays. I’d recently learned about a new store opening there, a 365 by Whole Foods Market.

So, I took the 20 minute drive and ended up in a new, really nice shopping center, complete with the freshly minted market. Supposedly, the 365 versions of Whole Foods are a test for the company, and the one in Cedar Park is one of five in the country. These stores are smaller, and house more of the 365 brand products, and are supposedly more affordable than the Whole Foods megastores we’re used to.

I went to the store with a list of things I needed for the week, but also kept the mindset that if they didn’t have what I needed, I’d just get what looked good and hit up my usual H.E.B. later. As I was walking up to the store, I noticed nearly all of the picnic tables outside were filled with people having dinner and drinking fresh juice.

Once I got inside, I could see why: the store had two counters to order food, pizza sold by the slice, ready-made sushi, a coffee counter, and a Juice Land. Major score for those living nearby, and especially for those working inside the shopping center.

At first, I was thinking the place looked a little small (like a Trader Joe’s) and there was no way they were going to have the things I needed. But, I grabbed the produce I needed and then thoroughly checked out the bulk aisle, where I got a big bag of trail mix for $6.

Next up was meats and frozen goods, where they had a bin of Mochi – a Japanese treat made from rice flour. I had never seen it before – it looks like a bath bomb – but I Googled it immediately. Hmm, ok, cool, they’ve got new things here, I thought.

As I left the olive bar, I discovered there was an entire other side to the store that had aisles, along with a section for fresh-baked goods. I went down every aisle, checking things off my list one-by-one. I even picked up a few unique bottles of wine, and got some decently healthy crackers for the salmon salad I planned on making.

But, the geeking out didn’t truly happen until I rounded the corner for the ready-made aisles. There was the sushi (a favorite of mine – I love the rolls with brown rice), and also ready-made meals from Snap Kitchen.

And then, there, under the light from the heavens was the section for cold coffees and energy drinks. For the first time ever, I saw it: Blue Bottle Coffee – right in front of my face.

“Oh my God,” I whispered under my breath. “It’s here!”

There’s only three Blue Bottle locations in the US – two are in California and one is in the Northeast. I discovered it via Instagram and have only drooled over the thought of the stuff given its hefty price tag and that I’d have to have it shipped. But there, on the shelf, was their NOLA iced coffee packaged in small milk cartons, right beside little cans of their cold brew.

It took every ounce of my insides not to do two things: 1. squeal with delight, and 2. put my arm on the shelf and slide it across it in a manner that would place all 40 cartons and cans into my cart.

It was then I realized my life has really turned a corner: There I was, 7pm on a Friday, Cinco de Mayo, and I was talking to myself over gourmet cold brew. Sing it with me, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ thirty twoooo-o-o-o-o!”

Amirite?

My geeking out didn’t stop there, because I soon discovered bottles of Picnik’s paleo butter coffee, along with a wide collection of Evolution’s pressed juices.

Needless to say, my fridge is really happy right now… even opening it makes me smile. As I write this, I’ve been eating olives from the olive bar, cheese, sesame crackers, salami, and sipping some sangiovase rose. It’s fantastic.

So there. I don’t know how often I’ll make the trek (and fork over the money) to hit up the 365 Market, but it sure was fun while it lasted… and now I have the joy of eating all this delish, healthy stuff!

Join my team!

I’m taking steps to honor my angel, Cheryl, in Austin and in Indiana.

Hello! As many of you may have read, I lost a dear family friend in February to Crohn’s disease. I wasn’t able to make it home for her funeral in Indiana, so I am Taking Steps in Austin to not only honor her memory, but to raise money and awareness that will hopefully lead to a cure for this terrible illness.

If you live in the Austin area, I could REALLY use some teammates! I’m happy to walk alone, but would love the support, along with the opportunity to make it a fun-filled day for a walk. If you’re able, please join my team by clicking here.

If you’re not in the Austin area, but happen to live in the Indianpolis area, I will be Taking Steps in Indianapolis on Sunday, June 25. Please mark your calendars, and stay tuned for the link to sign up for my team – I would LOVE to see some old friends and their families out in Indy, marching for a cure.

Here is just a snippet of some words I wrote to describe my relationship with my friend, Cheryl:

Cheryl was a ray of light in the darkness – she always found a way to laugh at pretty much any situation, which is a trait I’ve always admired. I can recall so many fun times with Cheryl and her daughter, Sarah – times I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I know Cheryl meant so much to my mom, and to her family. To me, Cheryl was South Carolina sweet grass. She took her daughter and I on a rode trip one summer, from the middle of Indiana to the shores of South Carolina, where we stayed, for what seemed like a month.

It was my first time really discovering a new culture – we went to the market, bought handmade jewelry, tried homemade ice cream, walked cobblestone streets leading to plantation homes, and chased crabs in the sands of Folly Beach. It was heaven.

You can read my entire post about Cheryl, here.

And so, Texas friends – I hope to see you on my team for May 20, and Indiana friends, keep your eyes peeled, but I’ll be there, ready to rumble on June 25.

In advance, thank you always for the support.

Life after vacation.

Le sigh.

Hey yo! I’m starting this week off with an apology – I know I only blogged twice last week, which was not planned. Vacation kicked my ass!

I got back to Austin Monday night around 9:30, and by the time I got home, showered, got myself ready for bed, and watched “Southern Charm”, it was after midnight. When I arrived at work on Tuesday, there was all sorts of unnecessary drama that I did not need.

By the time things were starting to feel back to usual around the office – I even got things organized there, and started catching up on all of my podcasts again – the power went out and completely jacked up our internet, leaving us to work from home for a day and a half. Ugh!

It took me much longer to get back to my “normal” life than I thought. And I wondered… is this vacation after 30? I’ve always heard people complain about jet lag and adjusting back to regular life after vacation, but never really experienced it. Whew, not until now!

But, I did take a few dance classes last week, and then used my weekend to help get myself back in order.

After all of the junk (but very delicious) food and drink I had on vacation, I was excited to clean out my fridge and hit the grocery with a list of fresh produce. I am happy to report that my fridge is now full of Naked Juices, fruit, raw veggies, boiled eggs, and soda water. I’ll be living off that until I feel skinny again.

I spent a majority of my Saturday volunteering for the Austin Film Festival – an event that’s become very special to me. There was an opportunity to earn some hours by passing out fliers for their kids’ Summer Camp… I ended up walking 12,000 steps going door-to-door, and even ran from a couple of roosters on my route! It did nothing for my vacation fatigue, but it was an interesting way to spend a Saturday.

I also finished reading a book – so look for that review right here, on Friday for Blanche’s Book Club.

I did a few chores around the house, and have, at the very least, prepped my laundry for a trip to the laundromat tomorrow. And finally, I got word that my Blog Class at UT was confirmed for this semester, and it starts on Wednesday night! I’m so excited to be back teaching, and am looking forward to meeting a new group of students. Teaching is such a thrill for me and I’m excited to share my love of blogging to a new set of students.

So, I’m hitting the ground running this week – I’m back at work, back to dancing, blogging, teaching, and eating healthy (I even made veggie “sushi”) for awhile – at least until my next vacation, which is planned for the end of June. Summer is here, y’all, and I love me some summer adventures!

Isn’t it true, that when you take a vacation, you just want to keep taking them? I feel like whenever I go on vacation, I try to think of ways I can adjust my current life so that I can take more vacations and/or travel to more places. Then I just simply WISH that my life was a vacation, but I suppose it wouldn’t be as special if that were the case… or would it? I’m willing to be the guinea pig.

And so, I’m back – and I’m finally feeling refreshed. I’ve got some fun stuff planned for the blog this week (“Southern Charm” recap, a John Mayer review, Blanche’s Book Club, etc.), so I hope you’ll stick around. It’s good to be BACK!

Vegas recap.

Howdy! I’m still very much in recovery mode after a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas over a long weekend. I am tired, and completely off-schedule given the time difference, and in general I feel like I need to do a juice cleanse and/or eat a bunch of acai bowls until I feel clean again.

But of course, life doesn’t stop, work is nuts, my apartment is in shambles, and my calendar is full. Whew!

However, I was so excited to take a look at ALL the pictures I took (it’s a lot, just look at my Instagram @OrangeJulius7), and definitely wanted to post my favorites here – in no particular order.

I landed in Vegas late Thursday night, checked into the Palms, and promptly made myself a drink and hit the slots – losing $20 nearly immediately.

On Friday, it was a little chilly outside so we skipped on the pool and ventured to The Strip to partake in street drinking, gambling, sight-seeing (particularly the fountain at the Bellagio), and overeating at Wahlburgers.

Friday night was the Backstreet Boys concert at the Axis near/in Planet Hollywood, which was difficult AF to find. But, the hunt for the venue was worth it, because BSB pretty much made all of my boy band dreams come true. They played ALL of their hits, danced a lot (they even did the same dance from some of their music videos), and even wore glittery suit jackets for a few songs – and I about lost it. It was fantastic!

After the concert, I was on a mission to find two “secret” gems in Vegas – the Moet champagne vending machine and the unmarked pizza spot. We found them both, met a few cool people along the way, and saw some great views of the city. And, that pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had.

View from the Palms pool + lounge.

On Saturday, we hit the Palms pool (which was laced with security), shelled out the cash for a giant Palms Punch (nearly $50 for a souvenir cup filled with rum and champagne), and relaxed until it was time to get ready for the John Mayer concert. We even enjoyed a yummy dinner outdoors along the strip, before screaming our faces off at Mayer’s last show before meeting up with Dead & Co.

He mixed things up, singing several songs from “Room for Squares”, and of course, several from “The Search for Everything” – but I think he shocked everyone when he brought out the John Mayer Trio for a few songs.

After the concert, we noticed the roller coaster at New York, New York was eerily close to the T-Mobile arena, so we rode that… which was pretty terrifying, and thankfully was a drunk decision.

On Sunday, we had another day of adventure, hitting Linq for the delicious, huge plates at Hash House a-go-go (I got the Indiana pork tenderloin). Then, we checked out the Linq promenade for the Sprinkles cupcake ATM (I got the chocolate marshmallow), and to check out the High Roller.

Then we caught a ride to Fremont Street – Vegas’ original strip – where there are lights covering the street, live music, and several old casinos (some even spit quarters). To close the night we headed back to the strip for a nice dinner at Hexx – a bottle of wine, impressive charcuterie, shrimp pasta, and a sunset view of the Bellagio.

On Monday morning, we headed out for one last adventure: the Neon Museum. Neon signs are a signature of Las Vegas and have been since it was born, but many casinos change their names or simply lease their signs, so many of these signs end up in a “Boneyard”, which is what we got to tour. It was dozens upon dozens of neon bones, complete with a tour guide who told us all sorts of great history, and we even talked about the history of fonts and how neon is made. It was fantastic!

I flew home to Austin Monday afternoon, and although I felt my body was ready to get back to my usual life, I was sad to leave. That was my second time in Vegas, and both times I’ve just had SO much fun. I always feel like I need to make massive life changes once a vacation is over. I sure was sad driving the country roads home – with no neon or flashing lights to guide me.

But, who knows what’s in store for me over the next few months! I know I’m going to try and keep things exciting. I hope you enjoy my pictures 🙂