Advertisements

Category Archives: The Squeeze

What a stuffed llama taught me about self-care.

Labor Day weekend, I went to the outlet mall to catch some highly-anticipated sales. After almost shopping ’til I dropped, I stopped by a store I’ve recently come to love: Five Below. It’s a place you have to be in the mood to look, but everything is $5 or below.

I’ve bought some pretty cool things there in the last few months including a set of 20 fine-tip markers (for journaling), a bluetooth speaker, and a felt board. Okay, and some candy.

That night, I was looking for things to take with me on the beach vacation. During my browsing, I came across a giant metal bin of small plush llamas. Some were gray and some were caramel, and they all had little blankets stitched on their backs. They were so cute, and after picking one up, I discovered it was soft, too.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been trying really hard to declutter my apartment – donating boxes of old clothes to Goodwill and selling random junk on eBay. I’ve been making progress and it’s helping.

I went on this decluttering spree after listening to a slew of podcasts on minimalism, convinced that I don’t need things to make me happy. And while true, there’s plenty of things that I don’t need, I’ve also learned that indeed, some things DO make me happy. My apartment is full of memorabilia, whether its framed magazine covers of my favorite artists, or scrapbooks full of ticketstubs, those are things I won’t ever give away.

I’ll never be someone who only has a bed in her apartment or stops buying people gifts – I’ll make my effort to declutter, and perhaps focus more on buying consumables or experiences, but that’s probably about it.

As I stood there at the bin of llamas, I found myself in the midst of a self-care crisis. Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve made an effort to do ONLY things that served me – even if it meant it may not be the best decision.

For example, I stopped forcing myself to go to a dance class just to burn calories. Yes, sometimes I feel good after working out, but honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just want to go home and cuddle with kitty Blanche after work and that’s not something I’m going to deny myself.

When I went through my weird food phase – I told myself I would just eat whatever sounded good, even if it meant only eating fried cheese curds from Culver’s for dinner. During times of stress or grief, we must be kind to ourselves.

Earlier this year, I went through this same conversation when I was debating buying a cat stroller. Would people think I’m a loser? Would I look silly walking around my neighborhood with this stroller? And then I decided I didn’t care. If a simple $40 purchase made me laugh even once, and I wasn’t hurting anyone, then do it. And I did, and I’ve had many, many laughs while strolling Blanche around the neighborhood.

So, there I was, trying to talk myself out of buying this $5 llama, because I’m 33 and I shouldn’t be buying stuffed animals.

In the last year or so, stores have embraced mermaids and unicorns, and llamas, too – it is my personal belief that the world, in general, is in such turmoil, that we’ve turned to imaginative, glittery beings to distract us from all things grey and bleak.

My dad loved animals – especially farm animals – and goats and llamas made him laugh. I’ve stopped myself from buying many llama trinkets, from drink coozies, journals, t-shirts, and a phone case, there’s cute “no drama llama” stuff everywhere. Even one of my freelance clients had photos of a lama trek for me to edit, and I found myself getting a good chuckle.

And so, I decided to treat myself to a stuffed llama. Why not? No one had to know about it, and if it makes me smile, then what’s a small little toy going to hurt? I picked out a grey one, with a teal and pink blanket on its back, and magenta feet and ears. After much thought, I named her Laverne.

After a few weeks with Laverne, she’s become a good cuddle buddy. I know stuffed animals are often meant for kids, but when I thought about it, my dad brought a tiny squirrel beanie baby with him to the hospital. He liked having something to hold in his hand.

After surgery, he couldn’t have the beanie baby – everything in his ICU room had to be approved – so his girlfriend knotted a hospital washcloth for him to clutch. My dad was later admitted to a different facility, where I was told he pestered his roommate by tossing the squirrel over to his side of the room (very much something my dad would do).

Every year, my mom and I buy Christmas gifts for seniors in a nursing home who have no one to buy them presents. One of the most coveted items is a stuffed animal, and my mom and I spend countless hours trying to find animals that are just the right size for hugging and made of soft fur. I suppose a stuffed animal can provide comfort to just about anyone.

So, even though my appetite has picked up and I’m slowly getting back into my dance and yoga classes, I’m happy I bought Laverne. If that makes me a little weird, well, it wouldn’t be the only thing.

If it’s going to make you happy, and won’t cause harm, I say go for it.

Advertisements

For my dad.

My dad and me.

As many of you know, my dad passed away on February 3. This has been the most trying time of my life – and although I haven’t felt comfortable enough to share much about my dad, I’m really thankful I have this outlet, and people who read it and can related to the story of my life.

Truthfully, the story of my dad’s death isn’t unlike many others – he was blessed to be surrounded by family as he took his last breath, and every single one of us got the chance to tell him goodbye. And that is something I will be forever grateful for.

There was also a lot of emotional, family drama – and that is what makes this loss so tough for me – on top of it being my dad.

My dad wasn’t someone who ever wanted a big show, so we paid our respects to him at a small chapel in Ringgold, Georgia, a week after he died. There were friends and family there to share stories and pictures of him, and even during that short time, I learned a lot about the person my dad was and the time he spent on earth.

Even though it was a special day and I’m grateful to have been able to be there with my family, I knew I wanted to honor my dad in my own way when I felt the time was right. I wanted to honor him by doing something he loves: fishing.

So, this morning, my lifelong best friend and I rose before the sun and met Pensacola’s best fisherman, Captain Kenny Way at the marina. With beer and a go get ’em attitude, we set sail.

Or, Captain Kenny started the boat and we were OFF!

We caught bait first, then moved on to snapper (red and black). We caught around 15 snapper. And then we used one of the snapper as bait to catch a 7-foot bull shark! You can see the video on my Instagram stories @Orangejulius7 


I’d informed the Captain ahead of time that I wanted to take a few moments to toast to my dad, and it was my honor to write something that I felt captured my dad’s spirit, but also offered some closure to myself, and hopefully to my friend, and maybe even Captain Kenny.

I brought along a few coins to toss into the ocean, and some fresh flower petals to sprinkle on the water – a signal to other boaters that we’d honored a life well-lived. Here’s what I wrote:

When I was little, I had a blue Mickey Mouse tackle box. It came with all the appropriate tackle for a skilled fisherwoman – for which I was not. Regardless, I had the matching fishing pole, and my favorite piece, was a Mickey Mouse bobber. It was designed to look like an inner tube, with Mickey Mouse sitting in it, his big yellow shoes flopping over one side. 
 
My dad was very much a skilled fisherman, and we went fishing many times – I have him to thank for catching the most fish nearly every time I venture out, even if I’m the only female in sight. But there’s two fishing trips that stick out in my mind:
 
The first was a very early morning trip. Early mornings are a necessarily evil when fishing, and my dad took that very seriously. On this particular morning, we had a bit of a drive – heading from our family home in Columbus, Indiana to a lake near Camp Atterbury. My dad had already planned our stops – because that’s the kind of man he was, a planner (sometimes to a fault) and he liked the journey just as much as the destination – donuts and coffee for breakfast, then a later stop on the side of the road to pick up live bait: worms that came packed in black dirt. 
 
Once we got to the lake, the sun was barely rising. I was sleepy, still, and too young for coffee. But it may as well been noon for my dad – we unpacked on the sandy bank, and he threaded my first worm, and reminded me how to properly cast my line – the Mickey bobber flying through the air, landing with a splash on  top of the water. 
 
“Now, when Mickey goes under, reel it in fast,” he said. 
 
So, I stood still and quiet, wondering if any blue gill were seeing the bait, while my dad doctored his line. There we stood, side by side, waiting for something big. The air was crisp and the water was so still, it looked like clean glass. I didn’t know it then, but it was likely the first time of many that I’d get swept away in an Indiana sunrise. It was all so peaceful. 
 
So peaceful in fact, that my eyes glazed over, and then next thing I knew, Mickey was going under and my dad was shouting – “Reel it in, Holly! You’ve got one!” I tried to pull and get my line back in, but it was too late, and I felt so awful that I hadn’t been paying attention. 
 
But thinking back on this moment now, it’s a perfect picture of my dad and I – he, focused and driven, no matter the circumstances, and me – willing to participate, but distracted by the scenery. 
 
When I was in college, my dad invited me to celebrate the holidays in a cabin nestled in the mountains on the Tennessee/Georgia border. It was a small mountain town – one that seemed like it was made for locals, but was likely all tourists. The cabin had a large porch that overlooked a small creek, and a few fishing poles we could borrow. 
 
My dad was determined to fish in this creek, so he bought a can of corn for bait – trout often mistake them for salmon eggs. We baited our hooks and my dad instructed me to cast upstream, so the line would move downstream with the current. I did as I was told, and we quickly discovered a major problem – trees really close to the riverbank. 
 
If I remember correctly, we didn’t even come close to catching a single fish, simply because our lines kept getting caught in the winter barren trees. My dad untagled every line I cast – yet another thing about my dad – he cleaned up a lot of messes for me. He’s stood up for me numerous times – when no one else would – and he introduced to me to the cureall of every breakup: watching “Swingers”. 
 
Since my dad’s passing, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about his life and legacy; what his life meant, what his death means, and how I’ll ever find closure in the numerous questions I have about our relationship. Through memories shared with me, those of my own, and personal items willed to me, I’ve gathered a few new tidbits about the man that he was and the life he lived. 
 
Despite all of my questions though, I know that my dad believed that every person has a story. He believed this to be so true, in fact, that he worked as a reporter (focusing on sports) for many, many years in order to share those stories. It was a job not many would do, in a time when there was no internet, interviews happened face-to-face, and tape recorders were rare. My dad wrote his pieces on a typewriter, after taking notes on a yellow legal pad. He was a beautiful writer, spicy, willing to tell the ugly truth (even at a conservative paper), and he did it for very little pay. 
 
My dad was a fan of the underdog – he was critical of the star players, overrated coaches, and wanted to get the real story from the bench warmers. He loved making people laugh, and perhaps his ability to converse with just about anyone, made it easier for him to share stories – whether in print or with locals at The Olympia. 
 
He was fascinated with the unknown – he had a curiosity for just about anything, and would obsessively throw himself into his latest interest. He was brave, sharp, and he did things his way (and only his way).
 
I have absolutely no doubt that witnessing all of this has very much shaped the person I am today – and will forever be. But I also know that I have to continue to craft my story, too. During these last six months, I’ve realized a lot about myself, including the fact that the unknown can be… terrifying. But it can also be rather exciting, once you embrace it. 
 
Today, I want us to take something familiar – physically speaking, these Presidential coins willed to me – and toss them into the unknown – the depths of the gulf. Consider it a way to throw your comforts, your faith, your purpose, into the great unknown: the future. Send with it a wish for yourself, a wish to keep crafting your story – whether to share, to keep, no matter if the result is picturesque or candid, planned or impromptu. Some stories are well-planned, but some simply happen…
 
It’s impossible for us to immerse ourselves into the unknown without love. My dad loved many things – fishing trips to Bull Shoals Arkansas with his dad and brothers, small towns, Red Vines, chess, Natalie Merchant, rescue cats, and reciting movie lines, among many other things. He loved people, too, and I feel really lucky that “I love you” was one of the last things he said to me, and I to him. 
 
I’m offering these petals as a symbol of love and peace. 
 
Finally, let’s toast: To family, friends, and finding comfort in the unknown. May the ones we’ve lost watch over us from their heaven – for my dad, I hope its on a lake, filled with delicious bass. 

Bathing suits + body image.

Cute suit!

I remember the first boy/girl pool party I went to. I was in 8th grade, it was the summer of 1998, and I wore a navy blue two-piece from Limited Too. It was a halter top that had turquoise piping and the bottoms were little shorts.

I don’t remember being particularly nervous or worried about my appearance – I’ve always had an average body type, and have never stressed too much about what I eat (especially as a kid).

The first time I remember being aware of my looks was in high school. I was on the dance team and rumors rippled through our squad that the traditional uniform included a cropped top.

The rumors were true. It was a royal blue long-sleeved mock turtleneck leotard cropped top – fitted, with sparkles. There was a matching mini skirt, but we mostly wore black “dance pants” – the shiny black flair pant with a v-cut at the waist.

I spent many a night at home, watching TV while doing reps on an ab roller. I am certain I did likely hundreds of reps – but I was also 14 – and carving out a few abs wasn’t an issue then, especially on top of our grueling practices each week.

I didn’t gain weight until college – I lived up to the “freshman 15”, if not 20 pounds or higher. Many of my favorite clothing items no longer fit, and I felt disgusting. But I also felt low, and eating felt good.

While I got things a little under control over the years – I didn’t really understand the whole picture until after graduating from college. My first reality check was when I decided to do a “detox” – it was a 14-day plan designed to reset the body by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, red meat, and excess salt and sugar.

I started looking at food labels and quickly realized that everything I’d been eating was terrible for me. I made my own brown rice, beans, and grilled chicken. By day 3, I was having a “healing crisis” – properly withdrawing from my daily cycle of caffeine and alcohol. It wasn’t unlike me to drink coffee from the time I woke up until lunch, then have a diet coke, and then back on the coffee until I went home, where I would drink wine.

The thought of this makes me cringe.

After the detox, I felt much better and I changed my eating habits. Soon, I joined a boxing gym, and had a strict diet – I was in the best shape of my life. Over the years, I’ve done the Paleo diet (I went strong for 3 months), low-carb, vegetarian, and vegan.

I quit the boxing gym when I moved to Austin (even though there is a franchise near my apartment) and joined a dance studio. The dancing classes aren’t as rigorous a workout as the boxing was, so I know my body has softened.

And over these last few years, I’ve developed a little bit of low self-confidence about the way my body looks. In general, I feel okay each day and I like how most of my clothes fit (it has taken me years to get rid of clothes that don’t make me feel good).

But… swimsuit shopping? Ugh. As a kid, I remember going swimsuit shopping with my mom – and she hated it – but I never understood why. Now I do.

It’s less about my body and more about what’s available to women with curves. Last summer, I realized it was official: I could no longer get by with cheap string bikinis. So, I threw all of mine away.

Last year’s suit!

And thus, the search for the perfect bathing suit began.

I quickly realized that I needed to search for suits in size large or XL, even though I am not those sizes. I’m typically a small/medium, a 4/6. But I guess if you have a C bra size, you’re a large.

I also came to see that the suits offered in “my size” were mostly just plain black and/or looked like they were for women much older than me – brandishing skirts or ruffles – I didn’t want that.

I eventually found a 1-piece at Old Navy that I liked. It had everything on my mental checklist: underwire, adjustable straps, fun pattern. It was $35 and it was the only suit I bought (and owned) last summer (here’s a similar one).

This year though, I was determined to build up my swimsuit wardrobe. I wanted at least one suit that was “luxury” – I was tired of buying cheap suits that wouldn’t last and didn’t fit that great. I also needed additional suits for my upcoming beach trip.

The Aerie Tie Back One Piece!

At first, I looked through all of the suits I liked on my favorite fashion bloggers on Instagram. Giant mistake. While their suits were cute, nearly all of them were made for women that were stick-thin, with no breasts.

These suits had no lining (what? This should not even be allowed), no cups, no underwire, and often no coverage on the butt. Great!

I ended up at American Eagle, a place where I feel like I should not be shopping, but they’ve done me well. I discovered that, not only do they not use traditional models, they also feature actual customers on their site.

This sounds simple, but it’s actually amazing when you’re shopping for a suit – I could see how the suit would look on a body similar to mine, and there were even comments that included women’s height and weight, and this was just amazing!

I ordered two suits online, one basic (a solid one in olive green that was voted as a best-seller) and one sexy, more risque one. I debated on this one, worried it might be too much skin for me, and then I thought, “No, I’m 33, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body, my cellulite” and just bought it. Also, and my larger-chested readers will understand, but when you have bigger breasts, nearly everything looks “sexy” – it could be a crew neck, hell, a turtle neck, and people are going to find your body distracting. Yes, that’s me rolling my eyes!

The Aerie Plunge One Piece!

Anyway… Would I go running down the beach in it? No. But it’s definitely cute and I’ll be perfectly fine wearing it while lounging in my cabana.

When the suits arrived at my apartment, I was nervous to try them on. But alas! The basic one fit perfect – it was smoothing in the front, and even though it didn’t have an underwire, it was supportive. The back is completely adjustable with a lace up, which looks neat, too. If this suit were offered in brighter colors, I would buy more.

The other suit (the Aerie Plunge One Piece) fit as I suspected – it was skimpier than my usual attire, but hey, it was cute – light pink and navy in thick stripes. I thought it would be cute with denim shorts.

With two new suits, I was feeling good. But there was still that “luxury” suit I wanted. I lucked out and got the American Eagle suits for around $30 each.

Becca Crochet Deep V One Piece

I was eyeing two suits at Nordstrom, but the universe quickly decided for me when one sold out! The other one – a mauve crochet lace one-piece by Becca that was sheer in all the appropriate places – was still pretty expensive, but if I wore it for a few summers, it would be fine. But then… it went on sale, 50% off, and I got it for $70.

I’d seen many pictures of different-sized women wearing it, and it was flattering on all shapes and sizes. I’m happy to say that it looked great on. The color would look much better with a dark bronze glow (for which I have been applying sunless tanner), but hey, all the more reason to lounge in the sun (slathered in SPF, of course).

I got myself a swimsuit coverup – this was another thing I cleaned out of my closet. I noticed that all of my “swimsuit coverups” were actually just old sundresses that I wore to tailgates in college. Cute then, not now. So, I treated myself to an ACTUAL swimsuit coverup, from Old Navy. I picked the pattern hoping it would match my beach tote and a few various sandals.

My swimsuit coverup from Old Navy!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with the way my body looks – it’s much too easy to see other women that look different and I sometimes wish I were thinner or more toned (aren’t we all guilty of this sometimes?) – but I’m slowly learning to appreciate my body for all its done for me.

After all, a different body type doesn’t necessarily mean better – we are all made different, and our bodies react differently to all sorts of things.

I am more concentrated on eating healthy to stay alive and well, and also doing exercises that help my mind and my mental health. If my body tones in that process, great.

Regardless, I know I’ll be comfortable in my bathing suits, either by myself at the pool with a book, or surrounded by my friends at the beach who aren’t judging me or what I’m wearing.

Cheers to having fun in the sun, no matter what type of body you have and what suit you’ve got to wear!

What I’ve learned from John McCain.

AP Photo: John McCain pre-politics flying fighter planes over Vietnam.

As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to write a bit on John McCain. I will admit, if you asked me even a year ago my thoughts on Senator McCain, I would have rolled my eyes.

I probably don’t have to say it, but I’m a die-hard liberal. I don’t agree with McCain’s politics, and even members of his family make me cringe. But in the last week, I’ve heard, read, and watched several things that have made me think differently about the late senator.

And my short conclusion is: he’s a fucking badass.

Let me explain. Yes, I knew McCain was a prisoner of war before he entered service as a senator. But even just learning more about that experience makes me wonder just how he even survived in time in prison!

I witnessed the back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, and naturally, I was disgusted, and curious as to how someone could hear such awful things about themselves and not fire back with every word in the book.

But McCain is getting the last word – even in death.

On Tuesday, I watched the HBO documentary, “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

If you haven’t watched it – you must! It beautifully discusses his life through interviews with him, his family, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and former Presidents Barak Obama and George W. Bush, among many others.

You can see firsthand his life on the campaign trail – both as he ran to be the republican nominee against Bush in 2000, and as the nominee running against Obama in 2008. Both are very telling of his character.

It’s funny… the 2008 campaign was the first one that I really was into – it wasn’t my first time voting, but it was my first time watching all of the debates and news coverage surrounding it.

At the time, I was dating a fratastic republican, and we constantly got into (mild) arguments over the campaign – he loved McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. I was, obviously, not a fan.

But after knowing what I know now about McCain, he probably would have made a great President. The timing just wasn’t right.

Photo from The Hollywood Reporter

When the McCain family announced that John would no longer be receiving treatment for his brain cancer, I was sad. But I also know that quality of life is important, and I felt a bit of happiness for him that he was able to live a full year from his diagnosis, and he used that time to not only stand up for the people of Arizona, but to also focus on the end of his life, and say his goodbyes to the ones he loved most.

As many of you know, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer late last year. It wasn’t the same kind McCain had, but he also had surgery to remove a mass behind his eye.

I was with my dad the day after his surgery, and although he was recovering well – I fully admire McCain and his ability to fly to D.C. and cast his vote against Trump’s healthcare plan just a day after his surgery.

I am fully in awe of anyone that gets to die on their own terms. From what I’ve learned of McCain, he lived on his own terms, too. And that is something I admire with my entire heart. He wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, as long as he felt it was right. He was honest, even during a time when many politicians are not.

Sadly, McCain passed away just a few days after he stopped treatment, and shortly after, his family released his final letter to America.

I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.

– John McCain

The letter took a slight jab at Trump, encouraging the American people to forge on, even though we aren’t getting what we deserve right now (there is a similar jab in the documentary).

A few days ago, I saw this headline: “McCain’s Choice of Russian Dissent as Pallbearer is Final Dig at Putin, Trump.”

Wow! Even in death, this guy is sticking it to Trump, and keeping it classy.

And then yesterday, I saw this: “Sarah Palin isn’t Invited to John McCain’s Memorial Services” – I’m speechless.

I didn’t know this, but the article says that earlier this year, McCain said that choosing Palin as his running mate was one of the mistakes he made.

Since Wednesday, I have been watching McCain’s services, and although they are sad to see, I have great respect for everything he’s done for our country, and I’m inspired by the full life that he lived.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve added several of McCain’s books to my reading list. If you’re interested, here are all of them:

With that, I’ve learned so much about McCain this week – better late than never, right? – but I’m confident that his legacy will live on and continue to inspire others.

“In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.”

– John McCain

What am I hungry for?

I wish that looked good.

I wish I could say this post was a giant metaphor – something about me searching for my purpose in life, but no. I’m actually talking about being hungry, and food.

The past few days, I’ve been feeling a little weird. My hunger is the same, but literally NOTHING sounds good to eat. In fact, the thought of eating nearly disgusts me to the point that I’ve had to force myself to eat because I am so hungry.

At first, I thought that maybe I was sick of eating vegan food. I’ve been eating mostly vegan for more than two years now, and well, it’s a lot of beans and veggies, and sometimes it’s difficult to mix up the flavors.

But I have always been one to do what I want, and that includes eating what I want. I eat vegan because it helps me sleep, not because I particularly enjoy making difficult food choices.

My hunger wasn’t leading me in any direction – so I kept telling myself that I’d eat no matter what – whether it was fast food junk, takeout, or even just sitting in front of a giant bowl of cereal. I was desperate.

But nothing – not even spicy chicken ramen from Whole Foods – sounded good.

So, there were a few meals I skipped and just suffered through the hunger pains.

Why was this happening? I consider myself a foodie – I love to cook! I love to try new things! I’m always eating at new restaurants!

But the thought of all food was grossing me out. I tossed nearly everything in my fridge. Then, when it came time to make a grocery list, I had no idea what to write because NOTHING sounded good. I sifted through hundreds of recipes – on Pinterest, on Instagram, and in cookbooks – and everything sounded gross.

My list consisted of “salad fixins”. I ended up getting spring mix, grape tomatoes, bananas, and coffee.

I headed over to Whole Foods to see if there was anything on their salad bar that looked good. I got 4 pieces of popcorn chicken and a small spoonful of pasta, which I forced myself to eat.

My mom asked me if I’d been hypnotized to be disgusted by food – it was a theory that I had not considered, but no, at least, not that I knew of.

Although I have been feeling a little chunky lately, I’m not so concerned about my physical appearance that I would stop eating. I love food much more than other people’s opinions.

I do know that it’s hot as hell and Sunday marked the 47th consecutive day that Austin has reached at least 100 degrees out. So maybe that’s it.

Each week, I go on a “food adventure” – a dorky way of saying that I go to a restaurant I’ve never been to, simply because Austin has sooooo many places and I’m determined to eat at as many of them as possible.

I’d planned to go on my weekly adventure on Sunday, but I wasn’t sure anything would sound good. But when I woke up around 4am with my stomach hurting with hunger, something fresh sounded good.

So I went to Blenders and Bowls on Sunday morning for my first ever acai bowl – this one had bananas, local honey, raisins, and cacao nibs on top – and it was good enough to eat.

I haven’t eaten much since then – a mini dairy-free ice cream sandwich last night. I brought a banana to work today and I packed one of those “salad rolls” from Whole Foods for lunch.

It’s certainly something that’s never happened to me before, and I’m sure it’s just a phase – I’m hoping it’s a short-lived one, because I sure did look insane going up and down every single aisle of Whole Foods multiple times, looking at food and then trying not to be sick.

And just to stop this rumor before it starts, no, I am not pregnant. I’m nearly positive that involves physical contact with a man, and that’s not one of my current hobbies.

I haven’t changed up any medication, either. I’ve increased my coffee intake and that’s about it. Maybe I should just eat all my meals at Blenders and Bowls, for freshness-sake?

Embracing the ‘YOLO’ Attitude.

Make every moment count.

I’ve written a little bit (or maybe a lot) about living your dreams, reaching for your goals, and in general, living life to its fullest. I have always felt a sense of urgency in my life and, although I’m not entirely sure the reasoning for it, I have felt it even more since my dad’s passing at the beginning of this year.

When I got the news that my dad needed surgery, of course there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. I immediately started questioning if he lived the life he dreamed he would. In the six months since his death, I’m learning more about my dad’s life, the adventures he took, and the obstacles he conquered.

I’m still not ready to get into details about my dad, but I know today that we all have a life to live and a story to create. And it’s up to us to make things happen.

Last summer, I was visiting some high school friends near my hometown of Columbus, Indiana. Since I was a kid, I wanted to escape Indiana – I’ve always felt there was something bigger in the world for me.

While I will likely never move back to Indiana, I’ve come to appreciate it for what is it, and I can see why so many of my classmates have stayed. Truthfully, I don’t think it matters so much where you live, but what you do there. It’s what you make of it.

Anyway, on this visit last summer, I was having lunch with a guy who was low-key trying to school me on why I needed to come back to Indiana. It became apparent very quickly that he was never planning to leave Indiana, and actually wouldn’t be open to moving anywhere else for any reason. Since I’ve known him, he hasn’t even traveled outside of the Midwest for a vacation.

I get it, traveling isn’t everyone’s thing. But there’s a whole WORLD out there waiting to be discovered! There’s so many different cultures and lifestyles – even moving from Baton Rouge to Austin, I’ve learned so much about the way people live and how cities flow. It’s fascinating to me.

I’ve never had a full-fledged Bucket List – I knew I wanted to fly to a city I’ve never been and see a concert (which I did earlier this year, and you can read about it here). Other than that, I just hear about things or places and think, “Oh, that’d be cool…”

But lately, I have been taking action on these types of things with such force that I almost feel reckless. I’m such an OCD planner (so much so that it often gets on my nerves), that booking flights and trips without much thought is against my grain. Buuuut I’m doing it – I’ve booked a trip to New York City later this year (I’ve never been!) and have also booked a flight to London for Spring 2019 (my first time overseas).

I told my best friend about my London flight just minutes after I booked it, and she booked a similar flight that same day to meet me there. THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! It was then I realized that you don’t often meet people who are DOING things; who are willing to throw themselves into a life that’s dedicated to actually living, instead of just waiting around.

I know so many people who say, “Oh, I’d love to do that” or, “I’ve always wanted to go there,” but what are they doing to actually make it happen? Likely nothing.

While I am still learning and growing, here’s a few tips I’ve been living by to help me live every day to its fullest:

  • Be proactive

I believe in fate and destiny, but I also know that we have to take opportunities when they’re presented to us. And perhaps those “presentations” won’t be glaring or on a silver platter – you still have to go after them.

  • Create your own opportunities

After I graduated college, I struggled with understanding what my 9-5 life would look like. I got really stuck in what’s “normal” and I definitely was not creating opportunities for myself. But I quickly saw what that looks like: wasting away at a desk job. I vowed that I would never succumb to it and I haven’t. Yes, I do have a desk job, but I have 6 (currently) gigs on the side + my blogging class… plus this blog and my Etsy shop. I’ve always got things going on!

  • Set goals… and take action

You know I’m really big on setting goals – I’ve found it’s the best way to visualize and communicate what you want, and then make a fitting plan for action. What will it take to accomplish that goal?

  • Always keep learning

This is HUGE. No matter if we’re talking about your career, a hobby, or just life lessons – complacency should NOT be an option. If you don’t keep learning, things will never change.

  • Try new things

This goes hand-in-hand with “always keep learning” – try new things! It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, maybe it’s just a new menu item at your favorite restaurant. But if you don’t try new things, how will you know what you like and don’t like?

  • Never settle

Don’t make it about what you think you should be doing, who you think you should be dating, etc. – you do what’s best for you and keep raising the bar.

  • Live in the moment/be present

I know the future sometimes bogs me down, or even thinking about the past, I am practicing more and more to be present and focus on what’s happening now. It makes things a little less hectic, and it stops me from getting in my own way (I am my own worst enemy sometimes).

When I talk about embracing the YOLO lifestyle and attitude, I’m not just talking about travel or wild adventures. It could just be trying a new restaurant down the road or taking a class you’ve always wanted to take. Here’s a few other examples:

A colleague of mine lives in Brooklyn and was featured in a popular home style publication for all of the cool art and eclectic pieces she had in her home. She told all of these stories about how she spent years searching for these pieces, sometimes schlepping them across the city! She reminded me that even if you live in an apartment or a temporary home, don’t wait to fill it with things (or memories) you love! Especially if the journey leaves you with great stories.

A friend of mine who is a mom makes a big deal about her sons’ birthdays – she throws Pinterest-worthy parties and saves the custom cake-topper from each year for her boys to remember. She even gets festive over smaller events, like Shark Week! I love how she makes every day special; she has been one to remind me that every day we live is a holiday.

Several years ago, my best friend and I met in Las Vegas for the first time. We both admitted we were strapped on cash, and, in a place that’s rather costly, we learned how to have fun on a DIME. We found the cheapest (and most filling) buffets for meals and at night, we bought Four Lokos (RIP sweet nectar) and sipped on them while walking the strip and going into all of the casinos (even dipping our toes into some of the fancy pools). We went back to Vegas last year with a little more money, and while we had fun, our first trip remains to be one of my best memories. We had fun, we got to see the city, and it opened up so many opportunities because we learned that we could go anywhere, no matter what kind of money we had.

A fashion/lifestyle blogger I follow just moved to San Fransisco, and from her Instagram Stories, it looks like her and her husband are on a mission to explore the city every weekend – I love it! They go to farmer’s markets, rent scooters, and try new restaurants. It’s simple, but it’s a great reminder that fun gems can be right around the corner!

I have made it a goal to try a new restaurant each week (I’ve been documenting them on my Instagram @Orangejulius7) and have also been taking new yoga classes as part of my YOLO adventures.

I know every day may not be wild and crazy, but it’s the small things that count, too, right? I’d love to know what things you do to make every day special – YOLO!

Searching for Sue.

Beautiful!

I’ve been practicing yoga for a long time – several years, off and on. When I say “yoga” here, I am referring to the movements you’ve probably come to know whether you’ve taken a yoga class or not.

Last month, I signed up with a yoga studio for 30 days to see how I liked the different classes they offered. My 30 days is up on Tuesday, and in just this short time, I’ve learned so much about the practice of yoga, and how much I needed it without even realizing it.

Many years ago, I did yoga poses at home from a VHS tape. Eventually, I got a few DVDs, and once I started taking regular boxing classes, I joined a yoga studio where I strictly took hot yoga classes.

It was there I really started to enjoy some of the mental clarity that comes with a yoga practice. But at the time, I wasn’t really looking for it.

This entire year has been a struggle for me, mentally, between my grief, and working a digital job, I get cloudy and feeling like I can never stop my brain from buzzing.

But between my meditation practice (thank you, Calm app), and taking yoga classes at the studio, I’ve discovered what a true delight it is to take even just 45 minutes or an hour all to yourself.

One whole hour just to breathe and let the outside world fall away.

Typically, when people think of yoga, they think of the poses. But it’s also about breathing, meditation, and a general system of well-being. It’s about awareness, and being present.

During these 30 days, I’ve taken traditional flow classes and barre – both of which I have tried before. But I tried two new classes: Yin and Restorative.

Yin yoga is slow-paced and the poses are held for up to five minutes each to work deeper into the muscles and fascia. I have LOVED taking these classes, and have also learned so much about my body and mind during them.

Restorative yoga is similar to yin in that you hold the poses for up to five minutes, but they are gentler poses meant to help you center your mind and body. This is really nice to take at the end of the day!

Since I already have a membership at a dance studio, I wasn’t really looking for cardio classes or even strength courses – I know I needed something for my mind.

In the first few classes I took, I kept finding myself on a mat next to the same woman – Sue. I don’t know much about Sue – which is one thing I enjoy about the studio: everyone pretty much keeps to themselves – she always seems to be on a mission to find COMPLETE relaxation.

She wears a thick headband that she uses to cover her eyes when our eye pillow just won’t work (when we are in a seated position, for example). She’s the first to cover up with one of the heavy blankets, and I believe Sue has mastered the ability to silently sleep mid-class.

It’s a trait I envy.

I haven’t seen Sue lately, and although we’ve only exchanged a few words over the course of the month, I’ve found myself searching for her in class. She is a great reminder that no matter what’s happening outside of class, this small bit of time is whatever we need it to be.

At the start of each class, we are invited to set an intention. I used to set my intention to just try and do my poses the best. But lately, I’ve vowed to focus on my breath, focus on being present.

With each practice comes progress, and I’m so thankful for the mental clarity I get from even trying. The studio has become a bit of a sanctuary for me, and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be hanging around for awhile.

2018 Goals: Checking in.

We’re already a week into August, and I have been thinking a lot about the goals I set for myself this year. It’s time to check-in and see what I’ve done and what I’ve got left to do, because I refuse to let another year pass without doing these things!

Raise the standard (In progress)

I wanted to generally raise the standard I hold for my LIFE. I want to do quality things, spend my time wisely, and have quality people in my life, even if that means not very many. And so far, I think I’m getting there. I’ve learned that by cutting less-quality things and people out of my life, I have more time for myself, and more time with the people who support and love me.

Get more involved in ZTA (In progress)

I was really lucky to be involved in a sorority in college, and although I made my mistakes (and there were downsides to it), I think that giving my time and my mind to these ladies could really be a great experience. In April, I took over the position of Judicial Advisor for the ZTA Theta Psi chapter, and am really looking forward to school starting in the fall so I can start attending meetings and getting more involved.

Don’t wait for tomorrow (CHECK!)

Since my dad passed away in February, I have taken this (my friend calls it my “YOLO mentality) to the next level. There are times I’ve felt completely reckless, but we are never promised tomorrow, so whatever it is, I’m doing it today!

Attend an estate sale (Needs Help)

I still haven’t done this, and I don’t even know how to find out about estate sales near me! Help! Do I Google? Pick up the newspaper? What are some tips once I attend? I need all the assistance…

Write, just to write (CHECK!)

Earlier this year, I went to a writer’s retreat for the first time. I have also been journaling almost every day, and it’s really helped me, mentally, and it’s helped me organize my thoughts so I can produce better blog content (it’s a win-win)!

Treat yoself (CHECK!)

This was less of an excuse to spend money and more of an excuse to use things I already have instead of saving them for “something special”. Case-in-point: my Jaclyn Hill eyeshadow palette. I bought it thinking I would use it for a dance showcase, but why just that? I pull it out on random weekdays and wear it to work, because I’m alive, and that’s a gift. I also finally wore a chambray jumpsuit that’s been in my closet for an entire year, never worn. This has been a fun one!

Take a road trip to Marfa, Texas (CHECK!)

I went to Marfa in June, and although the trip took an unexpected turn, I got to see what all the hype was about, and I finally got to pull off on the side of the road and SEE Prada Marfa. Not to mention loads of tumbleweeds! Read all about that trip.

Pay off two more credit cards (In progress)

I have already paid off one card, and I’m really close to paying off a second! It feels so great to finally have a little more financial freedom – in fact, life feels a lot different by making even one or two less payments each month. Suck it, interest rates!

Less time on social media + less social comparison (In progress)

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (both @Orangejulius7), you probably know that I spend a decent chunk of my time using the stuff. But in my defense, it’s what I do by trade, and I enjoy using social media! So, while I haven’t done a stellar job cutting back on time spent on social media, I HAVE cut back on comparing my life to others. I know that we are all on our own path, and everyone’s life looks different – and it may not be actually what we see on social media.

Meditate + show up for yourself (In progress)

I started using the Calm app to guide daily meditations, and although I haven’t meditated every day, I’ve done much more than I expected to! I have also started doing more yoga, and really try to use that time to focus on breathing and spending that hour for myself and my mind.

Don’t try and please everyone – it’s going to be okay (CHECK!)

This is a big one for me, and it gets easier and easier every day. I know that my personality isn’t for everyone, and I truly believe I’ve stood up for myself more this year than I ever have. I’ve learned just how much I can do on my own, and how much I can accomplish, and I can do it in my own way. This will be a forever practice, but I think I’ve nailed it thus far.

What goals did you set for yourself this year? Have you accomplished them yet? What do you need to do in order to cross those goals off your list? We’ve only got a little more than 4 months until the end of the year – how will that list shape up?

Summer Meltdown… to realness.

Pulled out the chambray jumpsuit.

Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.

The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.

Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.

I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.

Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy

But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.

The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.

I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.

In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.

And he was killed while crossing the street.

A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.

Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.

“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.

I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.

But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.

I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.

There’s something unsettling about all of it.

As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.

But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.

There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.

So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”

And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.

At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.

Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.

This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.

It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.

On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.

Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.

I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.

But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?

I’m still thinking on it.

In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).

I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.

Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.

It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.

And it all boils down to that highlight reel.

The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.

Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”

I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.

I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.

I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.

Whatever it is – DO THAT.

At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.

If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.

To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.

END SCENE.

Living single… at 33.

Taking in the view on my own.

You might recall a popular TV series in the mid-90’s, “Living Single”, that followed six black singletons living in Brooklyn. They were in their twenties.

Because that’s when most people are single, right?

I haven’t written about my (lack of) dating life in a while – in fact, when I searched through the archives of this blog, it’s been at least a year. Why? Well, until possibly yesterday, I didn’t have much to say on it.

I used to look at being single as sad, and then it became a badge of honor. Now it’s just nothing – or at least, nothing that defines who I am or what I do each day.

I know I’ve got some new readers here – Welcome! – and it’s likely that you never thought this was once a place where ALL I talked about was dating. Why?

Because I did a lot of it in my twenties. I dated, I wrote columns about my experiences, I bartended and met more people to date, and then I published books about it, and spoke about it at open-mic nights… and now I just live it.

I had some fun experiences, some really bad ones, I fell in love a few times, and I also strung myself through abusive relationships.

And then I decided to be single.

Not the single where you have crushes, and “talk” via text, and meet new people on Tindr, and have casual sex. The kind of single where I just get to know myself.

That was at least five years ago, and I’m still in that space.

I definitely never planned on being single at 33, but I also never planned on living in Texas, eating mostly vegan food, or contemplating what life at 55 looks like for a singleton like myself.

At times, being single is scary. I have Miranda’s fear of dying in my apartment, alone, with my cat, and wondering how that ends. And some nights, settling into the covers of my big bed is just a weird reminder of how long it’s been since I fell asleep next to someone I really cared for.

Most of the time, though, I’m happy with my life. Many days, I can’t even remember what it was like to be in a relationship, or to even have a crush on someone. I can do nearly anything I want, and for the most part I do. That was always my saving grace at the end of a relationship – I was free.

If that doesn’t tell you anything about the kinds of relationships I’ve experienced, I don’t know what will.

My jump into being single likely got off to a bitter beginning; I was single because I’d been burned. And there are still remnants of that – it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never had a relationship that I’d classify as good or healthy.

But even between relationships, I would quickly meet someone new and move to the next person; one rebound after another.

So being single was a much-needed blow to the cycle. For awhile, I found it difficult to even look at a man, whether at a restaurant or when checking out at a store. I was convinced all men were the same, and I wanted no part of their game.

Don’t worry, I have softened a little since then, and although I don’t meet many people whose relationships I envy, I do follow a few bloggers that give me hope in dating, relationships, and possibly even marriage.

When I graduated from college (10+ years ago), it seemed like everyone was getting married, and many of those same people got divorced, and/or had children. But really, a study came out last year saying the number of marriages in the US, and around the globe, have been declining since the late 90s.

A report from the Urban Institute also stated that many millennials won’t get married until age 40. In the past (say, in 1960), people married for many reasons – to have children, for financial gain (taxes, military, etc.); there was also less pressure on education and careers, for women at least.

Today, being single can mean a plethora of things, and it can look many different ways. That’s the catch 22: there’s almost too many options on how I can spend my years. Do I adopt? Travel? Move elsewhere? Get more hobbies?

I suppose I’ve got time to decide.

In these five years, I’ve gone on a few dates, and unfortunately they’ve been really bad reminders of what I don’t miss about dating – ghosting patterns, mixed messages, messy homes, boring conversations, and selfish sex.

It’s unlikely I’ll go on a date before 2020 rolls around, but when it does, I have a better idea of what I’m after – someone who has it together; a good, fun sense of humor, an appreciation for life, and a kind heart.

Until then, I’ll be obsessively reading library books, cooking new recipes, and planning my next vacation.

Staycation Diaries: That’s a wrap!

It’s oooovvverrrrrr.

Okay… it’s almost 10pm on a Sunday night, and it’s about to be official: the end of my Staycation.

I’m definitely savoring these last few moments before reality hits when my alarm goes off at 6:30 tomorrow – I cooked a meal (I’ll be taking the leftovers for lunch tomorrow), I spent three hours on the patio with Blanche and a book, I soaked in the tub, and am currently in bed watching TV while I type.

On Friday, I felt this urge to be productive: I had freelance work to do, laundry to do, groceries to get, and I had an evening rehearsal. I also needed to get to bed early because the shoot for the music video was at 6:30 Saturday morning.

But, at the advice of a friend, I decided to do some work, but also have a little fun. So, I did finish my laundry and about an hour’s-worth of freelance, but I also took myself to Taco Shack for lunch (that was my first time there) and I took an afternoon nap before my evening rehearsal.

I didn’t make it to bed early – I stayed up until midnight talking on the phone – and then I still had to shower and do ALL the face/lip/eye masks… so it was at least 1am before I went to bed, and I got up at 4:30 to do my hair and makeup and make it to Bull Creek by 6:30.

I was soooo nervous about the shoot – there were parts of the dance I was less-confident about, and I was also worried about it being outside, and hot… but honestly, it was a lot of fun. All of us worked really hard and I think it will be a great video – it premiers July 29!

The shoot wrapped at 10:00 am, and I felt like I’d already lived an entire DAY. But it was starting to rain and I was exhausted, so I immediately came home, took a shower, and got into bed to binge season 3 of “The OC”.

I actually took a three-hour nap, but then I watched several episodes, hit up the grocery store, and was still in bed early.

I woke up this morning so, so sore. Dancing outdoors, on a picnic table, jumping off rocks, and skipping through the river took a toll on me!

This morning, I got up and got ready for a brunch I’d had on my calendar for awhile. A woman I met through dance was hosting a brunch with all of the creative women she knew.

Honestly, things like this make me a little nervous – I knew I wasn’t going to know many people aside from the hostess, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I could have easily stayed in bed, but who knew – maybe it would be great.

And it WAS. It was about 10 women, and we went around the table explaining all of the things we do and it was so neat to hear how different, yet similar we all were. It’s really cool (and comforting) to meet people who are dabbling in new things, facing fears, starting new businesses, and overall just being awesome women!

I am really excited to have possibly met some new friends, and to try new classes and hopefully go to more brunches with these ladies! I felt like it was just what I needed after a draining few months at the office.

When I got home from brunch, I really just wanted to continue to abandon all responsibilities and sit on the patio with a book – so I did exactly that. I went IN, too – I laid a blanket down, laid on a pillow, and read outside with Blanche for hours! It was really nice.

In general, I’m really sad that my Staycation is over. It was really nice to be able to have a whole week all to myself. But on the other hand, I felt like I was still pretty busy during the week, and it was a huge reminder of all the things I’ve got going on – which, on any other day, I would tell you is a great thing, but when you need a rest, it’s nearly impossible to put your entire life on hold.

I’m a firm believer that Newton’s First Law of Motion: a body in motion, stays in motion – applies to life as well. When I’m at work during the week, it’s easier for me to stay moving, go to dance after work, get freelance done, eat healthy, etc. But when I’m on vacation… I’m a slug (relatively speaking).

That’s not a bash to slugs; I also wanted to say that this week was a reminder of just how important it is to take a break, rest, step away. Even if it’s just for an hour, for a day, or whatever you have, you owe it to yourself to rest and restore, and you’ll be a better person for it.

So, I’m wrapping up this Staycation (I’m still going to stay up and read a little), but I’ve decided I’m going to stretch these vibes into the weeks coming. I’ve already booked a facial for Saturday morning, and I’m going to treat myself to meals at restaurants I’ve never been to much more often.

#StaycationForLife

Staycation Diaries: Day 4.

Day 4!

Howdy! Here we are, on the evening of Staycation Day 4 – I just got home from the Drafthouse where I saw “Tag”. But, more on that in a minute.

Since I last wrote about Staycation, I’ve been a busy bee. I had an informal jazz rehearsal Tuesday night (our video shoot is Saturday morning, and I’m feeling “meh” about it), I went to one of the restaurants on my list – Veracruz All Natural (it was delicious) – and I even made the other recipe on my list: Vegan Garlic Buffalo Brussels Sprouts! You can get the recipe from Rabbit and Wolves.

I also started on a necklace for my Etsy shop, worked on freelance, and did some work around the apartment. It’s really easy to see how days fill up when you’re not at work.

Yesterday, I didn’t think I was going to get to go to the ONE activity I actually had planned this week: the July 4th paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake under the fireworks! It was raining and storming all day… until it was time to hit the water!

I know in the last post, I mentioned my mental health, and you’re probably going to hear more and more about it because I’ll be starting my treatment plan ASAP (I found a place to complete an assessment today).

I’m not entirely sure what my diagnosis will be, but in general, I have severe anxiety. It’s so severe at times, that it makes normal, every day tasks difficult for me. Let’s take the paddle board thing for example.

I almost didn’t even buy a ticket because I knew driving there and parking would stress me out. And I was right, it did, I even had a stomach ache over it, and had to do some deep breathing… but hey, I did it, I got there, and it was worth it.

I got on the water around 7:30 and was out there until about 10:30 – I am so sore today! I paddled as far down as we were allowed, getting as close to the fireworks as possible (obviously), and it was really nice to just sit on the board with my feet in the cool water, watching a pretty big fireworks show. I have always enjoyed July 4th!

When the show was over, everyone was racing to paddle back by the curfew – and I will say that paddling in the dark is much, much different than it is during the day. It’s a little creepy, and it’s difficult to see juuuuust how far you are away from the right dock. It seemed like it was taking forever to get back; I was really happy to see the dock, and to relax on my couch once I got home.

Today, I worked some more on my Etsy jewelry, soaked in the tub, and went to the movies! Let’s talk about “Tag” – let me know if you’ve seen it! Here’s the description from Google:

One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running for a no-holds-barred game of tag — risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take one another down. This time, the game coincides with the wedding of the only undefeated player. What should be an easy target soon becomes an all-out war as he knows they’re coming to get him.

The movie was really, really funny – I felt like I was laughing the entire time, honestly. There was a part in the end that was a little sad, and it’s impossible to forget that this movie is based on a true story, because they show footage from the real story (which is equally as funny)!

In the movie (this isn’t a spoiler), a reporter for the Wall Street Journal is along for this epic game of tag because she’s writing a story on it – and in real life, that story was published in 2013 (I wanted to read it but you have to subscribe). Surprisingly, the movie wasn’t that much different than the real story – these guys really did play tag for almost 30 years, complete with formal rules, and hiding out in odd places to tag the next person.

It makes the movie that much more funny! You’ve got to see it if you haven’t yet.

Tomorrow is my last official day of Staycation! Ugh! I am going to sleep in, but I’ve also got to be productive. I’ve got laundry to do and I need to go to the grocery, all before a jazz dress rehearsal. What a difference a day makes…

Staycation Diaries: Day 1.

If we’re not counting the weekend, today was officially my first day of Staycation! But, I did have a good weekend – I went to two places in town that I’ve never been – Counter Culture and Capital City Bakery (both vegan).

I also laid out at the pool, finished reading a book (and am already close to finishing a second), and went to Sprout’s Farmer’s Market for the first time.

As difficult as it is for me to admit, my mental health has been suffering lately. Sometimes, I feel like my brain is about to explode! It’s difficult for me to tell if it is grief, work stress, fatigue, or a combination of all three, but what I know is that my usual comforts haven’t been reliable, and that’s scary.

So, part of my staycation will be giving my mind and body the rest that it needs, but also moving “Find a Therapist” from the bottom of my to-do list and move it to the top.

Yesterday, I started making the vegan Banana Cream Pie that was on my Staycation list – it took awhile since the filling had to set overnight, but it was worth the wait. I finished it this morning and immediately had a slice – it was very good, very light! You can get the recipe from the Minimalist Baker.

I spent a majority of the morning on my patio, drinking lots of coffee and reading – it was really peaceful and nice.

But, it wasn’t long before I ventured to my computer, because even though I’m off at my day job – freelance work means you’re never truly on vacation. It also didn’t help that my boss from my 9-5 is also on vacation and she set me as her backup – le sigh. Communication really is key, folks.

I’ve talked some about my freelance career on here, but it’s something I’ve always done on the side to earn extra money and to keep my skills fresh. I find that no matter the day job, I am always looking for a change of plans.

Currently, I’m really lucky to have several steady jobs going at once, and they’ve really broadened my horizons because most of them are in other countries, including Switzerland and Columbia.

But it also means lots of organizing, juggling, and time management. For a few hours, I actually felt like I wasn’t on vacation at all. Then I remembered that I do have a whole week ahead of me, and even though I’m still doing work, it’s nice to be doing the work while posted up in bed, binging on MTV’s “Ex On The Beach”.

I did take a break to run to Michael’s, because I need to ship an Etsy order tomorrow! Ps. I am currently running a summer sale in the shop – get 20% off + free shipping when you order any two items!

I did get some supplies to make a few new items for the shop, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for those.

In about an hour, I’m heading to a yoga class, and tonight I’m going to cook dinner, and probably head back out on the patio to finish reading a book!

I was gifted the LUSH sleepy shower jelly and lotion, which I have been dying to try – I’ve heard you really zonk out after using it – so I’m going to try that. Really partying hard over here!

Stay tuned for Staycation Day Two… and keep up with me on social media @OrangeJulius7 (especially if you want to see how my pie turned out)!

Staycation, all I ever wanted!

I am fairly certain its bad blogging etiquette to say how exhausted I am, but it’s been a crazy few weeks at work, and life has just been SERVING it to me. Lucky for me, I planned a staycation for myself months ago and have the entire week off!

At first, I didn’t think I’d be that excited about a staycation (I’ve never really had one) and I also thought a week (or 9 whole days) off work would be almost too long. Turns out, I’m already feeling like I probably should have asked for two weeks off.

Regardless, I made a list of things I might do next week – with an understanding that I also might just lay in my bed until the morning of July 9th, when I’m expected back at the office. So, here’s what I’m thinking:

Brunch at Holy Roller

This downtown gem is known for their witty, religious twist on their decor and menu items. They are also home of the “Trash Fries” – but I’m also eyeing the “Grilled Cheesus”. Take a look at their menu for their full offering.

Head to the Movies

It’s been a minute since I’ve been to the movies, and I really want to see “Tag” along with the new “Jurassic World” – I even have a free movie pass to use, so I’m really hoping for one of those afternoons where I’m the only one in the theatre…

4th of July Paddleboarding

This is the only event I know for a FACT I am doing because I already bought my ticket… plus, I’m pretty excited about it. This is a 2-hour stand-up paddle-boarding session on Lady Bird Lake at night underneath the Downtown Austin fireworks on July 4. I can usually see fireworks from my apartment, but each year I always wish I would have actually gone somewhere to see them closer… and I think this is about as close as I can get! I have only been paddle-boarding once before, but I didn’t fall, so I’m hoping I have similar luck!

Lounge by the Pool

It’s a no-brainer that at least a few times, I’ll be at the pool with my head buried in a book, alongside a cooler full of snacks (and white wine).

Binge on ‘The OC’

I bought seasons three and four and have no had a chance to start either of them! I really have some catching up to do.

Lunch at Veracruz All Natural

I heard that Round Rock’s Veracruz All Natural has THE BEST shrimp tacos in Austin and I will happily forgo my vegan diet to try these bad boyz. They also serve 32-ounce agua frescas and I am so freaking excited to get a pineapple one!

Cook in the Kitchen

While I do plan on eating out and enjoying food at the Drafthouse during movies, I do want to cook a few new vegan goodies right at home, including Garlic Buffalo Brussels Sprouts from Rabbit and Wolves, and a Banana Cream Pie from the Minimalist Baker #treatyoself

And so concludes my list. I sort of wanted to include a few productive things on my list, like renew my passport, renew my car registration, and wash my car… but I decided to drive myself insane and did it ALL this week so that next week – I’m completely without obligation.

I’ll let you all know how it turns out on Instagram and SnapChat @OrangeJulius7

The Road to Marfa: Reasoning.

Beautiful!

I leave for Marfa, Texas early tomorrow morning – my bags are packed, my rental car is ready for pickup, and I’m reflecting on why I wanted to make this unique trip in the first place.

I heard about Marfa for the first time on an episode of “Courtney Loves Dallas” (on Bravo), when her friends join her for a road trip across Texas to see Prada Marfa. I honestly can’t remember if they did much else, but she later went on to make a Marfa t-shirt for her blog followers, and continues to shoot promotional items for her blog within Marfa:

I thought the Prada Marfa was cool enough to see one day, and when I moved to Austin almost 3 years ago (!), I knew I had to visit one day.

Truthfully, I’ve always enjoyed camping experiences. As a kid, my babysitter had a pop-up camper and I thought it was such an adventure. I loved walking around the campground to see how other people set up their temporary homes – with lights and patches of plastic grass.

I also loved it when the local mall had their camper and RV show – I loved looking through all of them, and thought they all looked so fancy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted an adventure in some sort of desert (or deserted) environment. I have long romanticized life out west – perhaps that’s why I love Texas so much. The cacti, tumbleweeds, dust clouds, and horses have always appealed to me.

Like my dad, I’ve got a bit of a fascination with small towns – how people inhabit them and never leave; how they create lives off-the-grid; and how it all contributes to some semblance of meaning for us city folk.

Like anyone about to hit the road, I’m looking for clarity, a bit of a challenge, and a new perspective. I have always believed that in order to create, we must constantly work our creative muscles; always looking for new things to discover and digest.

But of course, I’m looking to unplug a bit, too. Work has been incredibly stressful, and lately, the weekends just aren’t enough time for me to recharge. I also randomly picked this weekend to travel, and as the days have crept closer, I see I’ll be well west on Father’s Day – I’m really thankful that I won’t be able to see anymore online chatter about the holiday I’m missing this year.

Grief has been so hard on my heart, my mind, my body, and my social life. I know one weekend won’t solve it for me, but I hope that with each adventure I take on my own, I grow stronger and more confident in the daily challenges I face.

I’m really looking forward to actual quiet, the quiet I’ve only experienced in the Tennessee mountains at night. That same darkness, too – it brings rest.

And of course, I’m hoping to have fun, meet people, share stories, eat local food, and take pictures; spend some time in a hammock with a book, or sit outside with my journal.

Whatever happens out there, I look forward to telling you all about it.

Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

-Anthony Bourdain