… to New York

Another Fall season, another New York trip. Steven, I promise I will visit over the Summer eventually.

I started working for a different company in January. This company provides an INSANE training budget per person/year and my manager was encouraging me to take advantage of it. I tired to steer clear of any Project Management training since I am CAPM certified (and a self-proclaimed certified badass) at PM but after my manager continued to decline my suggestions, I found myself signed up for an “IT Project Management” course. Hey, the IT part would be new!

The course was scheduled to be 3 days over the summer in NY but was cancelled last minute, likely due to a low class count. I had plans to stay with Steven for the trip; use my travel day on Friday, participate in NY shenanigans all weekend, go to training Monday-Wednesday, and come home Thursday. When the class was cancelled, we were BUMMED. However, I was able to sign up for a later class in October and luckily, that one carried on as planned.

Thursday, October 24

This day was stressful. I had been in Corpus Christi for work all week and got back around 2pm. I had to re-pack, catch up on the work I missed during the 3 hour drive, and hurry to Tomball. I also decided to get my hair cut because I was hating the cut I got a few weeks ago. The lady was so cool and talked me into a style I would have never picked for myself. It still scares me but I am glad I tried something new. I kind of love it! I also LOVE that all the blonde is finally gone. Go in for a trim and some layers, leave with 5 inches cut off.

We all stayed up late watching the Parent Trap (Lindsay Lohan version). This is an important detail for later in this post.

Friday, October 25 

I stayed at my sister’s house Thursday night before because they were going to generously watch Elliott for me for the week. On Friday, Jesssica and Justin left for work and I got the girls ready and took them to school. I think they loved having a little extra Gigi time in the morning and having me drop them off since we had never done that before. We listened to Taylor Swift and talked about New York. Olivia asked me to bring her back some chocolate.

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From there, I headed to the airport. Everything went smoothly and I even took a nap on the plane. I landed and Ubered to Steven’s apartment, arriving just after 6pm to see him waiting on his stoop for me. I dropped my bags off upstairs, greeted Topher (Steven’s 5 year old mini-Australian Shepherd), and we took off to The Richardson for drinks. The weather was perfect for sitting out on the patio and after a glass of wine, we started our walk to dinner.

During the walk, I told Steven that the Uber had passed a tattoo shop and made me think that we should finally get the matching tattoos we had been talking about getting all year. Steven had no objection and we just happened to be a block away from Rose Tattoo, a tattoo shop he liked so… we got matching tattoos! We each got an ellipsis tattoo on our finger. The meaning is 3 fold:

  1. We mostly talk on GChat so we are typing all day to each other and the ellipsis serves as a chat indicator.
  2. They are on opposite sides of our fingers (his on the inside, mine on the outside) because we are on opposite sides of the country.
  3. They are on the middle finger because… F it.

I had been wanting a Texas outline on my arm for a few years now so in effort to be financially responsible, I got that one done as well. The tattoo artist printed out a Texas outline and I said it looked a little narrow. Steven agreed and the guy said they all looked the same to him on the computer but for us to come pick one. We scrolled and found a big fat one we both liked. After printing it, the guy could finally see the difference between the two. We have both spent the majority of our lives in Texas, we know what it looks like. I appreciated his patience with us though. I am obsessed with tattoos and how they came out! My sister said I was officially the most tatted person in the family and while I did not know we were competing, I will take the win.

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After our spur-of-the-moment detour, we walked over to Sage for dinner. They have amazing Thai food and we chowed down before heading home. We tried to watch the movie “Yesterday” but we both fell asleep pretty quickly. n

Saturday, October 26 

We woke up super early because we had plans to travel upstate and go hiking for the day. As we got ready, we joked about forgetting we had gotten tattoos the night before (I promise, we were sober when we got them) and tried to get the Topher’s dog hair off of our sleek black hiking outfits. Steven picked me up the cutest North Face jacket because if we were not basic enough, the black North Face jackets would do it.

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Our plan was to be out of the house by 7:30am and in typical Jillian/Steven fashion, we were ready early. We took the subway to the Port Authority and was in line for our bus just a little after 8am. It was not scheduled to leave until 8:30am but we wanted to be able to sit together so we had to be in the front of the line. Everyone had printed tickets except for us so I asked an employee what the deal was and sure enough, we needed printed tickets. How dare we try to go digital! Psh. We had to leave the line to print the tickets at the booth and by the time we returned, the bus was boarding and full; we did not get to sit next to each other. I did not grab my phone charger or headphones when we left, assuming I would not need them. Now, I was stuck on a bus for the next 90-120 minutes with nothing! I turned my phone’s battery saver mode on, read my book on my Kindle app, and hoped the battery would make it all day.

We arrived in the adorable small village of New Paltz, NY just after 10am. Seriously, this town was adorable and the weather was perfect for hiking. It was about a 15 minute Uber ride to the Mohonk Preserve where we would spend the day. We purchased our tickets, grabbed a map, and headed out.

The hike was incredible. The initial path up was challenging (no wonder the guy at the tourist center told us it was called the “stair master”) but after that, it was mostly a breeze. The views were breathtaking. The leaves were colorful and crunchy. The rocks and cliffs were stunning. It was an amazing hike; some parts more challenging than others but always doable. I wanted to climb on everything; Steven only could tolerate so much of that!

Steven recently purchased a GoPro so we played with that and got some good snapshots. I do not know why they look blurry here!

When we passed a rock, Steven asked me who it looked like. I immediately said “Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas, duh” and he could not believe that I guessed what he was thinking. For one, it legitimately did look like Grandmother Willow.

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Our favorite part was Lookout Cove. It was seriously, without a doubt, the most stunning view. We sat up there for awhile, soaking the experience in. It was refreshing and exactly what I needed.

Our last stop was a lake by a resort.

We hiked for about 3 hours; my phone said it was nearly 17,000 steps. I know I keep mentioning the weather but we really could not have asked for a more perfect day to do this. It was gorgeous.

We had to wait about 20 minutes to get an Uber since we were so far out of town (after it took probably 20 minutes for us to even get signal to be able to request one) at this point (and we had not hiked back to the original point we started). As cars left the resort, we jokingly begged for them to take us with them to town! We were getting cold and hungry. The Uber driver had an USB-C cable and I was able to charge my phone for a little bit which was nice.

Our bus ride back to town was not until 6pm so we had some time to pass. We had lunch at Bacchu’s and visited the local brewery. By the time we had gotten to the brewery, we were exhausted. Steven messed with his phone and I got very introspective about my life. We were quiet mostly, which was fine, but the silence made me get into my head about things. I was thinking about social media and how I was glad to have deactivated all of mine. In some ways, I wanted to reactivate it because it is nice to be able to share photos like we had taken throughout the hike but at the same time, I love not having it. Not having it has helped me stop feeling like I have to portray myself in a way I thought people wanted to see. Not every picture or moment has to be shared with everyone and validated by my family and peers. I never felt true to myself with it and it apparently was kind of a big issue with my last boyfriend, which a part of me can understand. He was on social media but never misrepresented himself or used it an unhealthy amount (that I could tell) and I truly admired that about him and now aspire to be more like that. He lived freely and I wanted to do the same. It is great to not feel obligated to post things or interact in unnatural ways, but I do sometimes feel a little disconnected from people. I just do not think, at this point in my life, I can use it in a healthy way and be myself so it is better for me to stay away. Far, far away. Then, that train of thought spiraled into thinking about that particular relationship again. The fog in my brain got so thick with the emotional mess and everything else that I ended up foolishly texting him. I had only had one glass of wine so I cannot really blame that but yes, I know it was a mistake and no, he did not reply (nor did I expect him to). We broke up nearly 2 months ago so spending my time thinking about him and texting him was ridiculous and I hate myself for doing it.  It did not help that Steven and I had pointed out every attractive guy in the village; we are just 2 very love struck, hopeless romantics. All of it made me miss my ex more and more. By this point, I was not only physically exhausted from the hike but mentally exhausted from my own self. Oy.

ANYWAY… We walked around the village and stopped into some local thrift stores before heading back to the bus stop. The town had a bookstore with books on a cart on the sidewalk; it was cute. We had such a wonderful day but we were both ready to get back home.

The bus was a little late and while we did get to sit together, we got stuck in front of some very annoying people who clearly did not understand the concept of shared spaces or volume control. Steven had his headphones so he listened to music to tune them out and I continued to read my book, trying to ignore the incredibly dumb conversations happening behind me. I finished my book (my replacement for social media these days) just as we arrived back into the city; perfect timing.

We were finally back at Steven’s apartment by around 9pm. Steven ordered 3 kinds of dumplings and we snacked on those while finished our movie from the night before. We were both passed out by 11pm; I was shocked we even made it that late.

Sunday, October 27

We had grand plans on Sunday for Steven to go to the gym while I go to yoga. Then, we would meet for brunch and maybe go get facials or do something fun. Instead, we slept forever, ordered breakfast, took naps, and did nothing. It was perfect.

I watched Rocketman; great movie. I finally saw Uyen, Steven’s roommate, who had been having her own wild adventures all weekend. At one point, Steven and I left to go get mimosa supplies and that was basically all I had to drink all day (I tried to keep drinking water). They ordered food but I was not hungry so I snacked on edamame and blogged my Maryland trip from 2 months ago. They both eventually fell back asleep so I watched Welcome to Marwen and continued my blog. It was rainy outside so it was not like we had a lot of outdoor options anyhow. It was SO hot in their apartment (not just Sunday, but like… every day) so that was fun for me *sarcasm* I mostly just felt gross. PS I do not feel bad saying that here because I told Steven every single day it was hot in his apartment!

They were both asleep and I was finally hungry so I ordered myself some Thai food. I took Topher on a walk, too. It was a very lazy day.

Monday, October 28

We got up, ready, and out the door right on time. Steven had to return to work and I had my first day of the IT Project Management training I was in NY to attend (betcha forgot the original purpose of the trip by now). The training was in the city so Steven took the first leg of the trip with me and then we split. He was so concerned about me getting to the right place; it was cute. I did navigate Europe many years ago and phones are smarter now so I felt confident in getting where I needed to go. I figured out why everyone in NY wears black though; with all of the walking and hot it gets in the subway, you are dripping in sweat. Black hides the sweat!. It was brutal. When I finally got back to street-level, I enjoyed the frigid air and breeze between the buildings. I had plenty of time before class started so I stopped at Starbucks which was incredibly dumb because 1. I was already hot and 2. they are bad for you and writing my Maryland blog made me realize how much weight I had gained in 2019 and hot chocolate was just going to make me more fat. I arrived at the building somewhere in the Financial District and still had time so I sat outside, sans jacket, to cool off. I am pretty sure going from extreme heat to extreme cold is how people get sick. I felt dumb walking around and sitting there with my headphones, looking like a rookie for leaving my wireless buds at home. There were probably only 4 other people in all of Manhattan using corded headphones. Tourists, ammiright?

I went inside and found my classroom. There were 7 of us for the course and I was the only woman; this would be interesting. The view was kind of awesome.

I apparently was supposed to bring my laptop even though no information I received ever said that, so I managed most of the class from my phone like I true millennial. I liked school growing up so as awkward and lame as everything was, I was a nerd and answered questions and participated. Partly because that is who I am as a person, partly because participating makes the day go by faster, and partly so the instructor could move on to the next subject. I felt anxious most of the day though and did not feel mentally distracted enough which can lead to spiraling but I will get to that later. The instructor reminded me of things I had heard in the past but there was almost zero new information for me. I was hoping for more of an “IT” perspective on things but it was essentially a regular PM class. Oh well.

There was a Chipotle nearby so I picked that up for lunch and read my book in the lobby during our break. Even though I was hot as hell in the morning, I was thankful to have my jacket at lunch. Tough to keep up with what to wear in NY!  I had to pass about a thousand halal carts to get there which reminded me of my ex even more and that sucked. My ankles were really starting to hurt, too; I assumed from the hike but also (like the pessimist I am) assumed from all this extra weight I have been carrying around again. Womp womp.

Overall, the day went by fairly quickly. I took notes to pass the time and tried to ignore the one student who was not understanding anything and making everything more difficult. He released us around 4:30pm and I started making my way to the yoga studio near Steven’s apartment. The route was different than the route I took into the city but I had my phone and made it just fine. I totally felt like I stood out as an “outsider” but I am sure that was just me being overly cautious. I am supposed to be free now, right? Who cares if I stand out?

I made it to the studio, YO BK, and read my book outside until they opened. I had been there once before with Steven so sign-in was easy and they gave me a free class for being a Bikram instructor; just another perk of busting butt for 9 weeks at training. Class was really great but tough, physically and mentally. I did well, which usually happens after a small break, but that means I know I probably pushed myself too hard. My ankles and feet were hurting. It was difficult to look at myself in the mirror and for the first time in my Bikram yoga history, I wore a tank top during class. I think the only other time I wore a top in class was during my first one and it only stayed on me for about 10 minutes. I hate this weight gain. I hate it. I did not feel proud looking at myself in the mirror. Bikram Yoga brings out all the crap and that is likely why I have been avoiding going as frequently. I could not stand looking at myself. I felt disappointed for working so hard all those years and letting it all go to waste this year. Literally, just this year. I beat myself up all class about it. My tattoo was pealing and scared the hell out of me since I forgot it would do that. I also never considered how the hell I was going to put my hair up for class now that it was so short. That made it interesting. I liked the teacher, though, so that was a plus.

After class, I walked to Steven’s house from the studio. For once, a familiar route! I returned my mom’s phone call and managed to not get lost without my map open and in my face so that was a good sign. I showered up and then caught up on work emails and tasks. Steven made a healthy dinner for us which was exactly what I needed. My yoga high started to wear off around 9pm and I decided to call it a night. I got lost in my head again… I still wait for a text from him. I still want him to be waiting at my front door as I come up the stairs to my apartment. I know the damage cannot be undone (my own fault) and that my apologies mean nothing at this point but for some reason, I have hope and that hope is torturing me. For reasons I cannot explain on here, this breakup has been dragged out and painful. I have to constantly interact like everything is okay when it is not. My ex from last year was right in all the ways I and everyone else expected but with this guy… it was different. He was right in all the right ways FOR ME. I felt so much like myself. I felt free and happy. It was private and it was ours and I loved it. I loved him. There are so many things I wish I could say but I know they do not matter anymore. I feel like I failed at communicating and he failed at understanding. And vice versa. This is the hell I unintentionally put myself in almost every night. My brain will not quit because my heart will not let go. I tried to read my book as a distraction and eventually, I fell asleep.

Tuesday, October 29

After arriving so early on Monday, I decided to leave a little later on Tuesday. Steven had to get to work so he left before me and I got ready on my own. I curled my hair which ended up being silly because it was raining but hey, I tried. I was feeling the cut and the new trench coat Steven picked out for me, though.

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The commute from his apartment was about 40-45 minutes. The subway was just as hot and I was unfortunately wearing a sweater so as you can imagine, I was drenched. Being trapped down there, packed in with everyone, and warm/stuffy was making me all levels of anxious. I wanted to get off at an earlier stop just so I could get outside and breathe. I stuck it out, though, and essentially ran up the stairs to get outside when it was finally my stop. I slowed down and regrouped before starting the last leg of the trip (the commute was a 9 min walk, a subway ride, another subway ride, and then another 9 min walk). It was nice to be out on the streets with everyone and feel the hustle and bustle. I passed what looked to be teenagers in business suits (probably college grads) walking to their big boy financial district jobs and literal children walking to school on their own. I cannot imagine growing up in the city.

I skipped Starbucks and arrived at my building. I felt disgusting from being so warm and sweaty. There was literal sweat dripping down my arms. I sat outside again, sans jacket again, to cool off. This made me freezing cold so I walked to Starbucks for hot chocolate. I will never learn.

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I brought my computer to class and was SO distracted by it all day. It was difficult to not reply to emails and work on things all day. I still had to pay attention and participate in class but I wanted to get started on organizing my projects and doing other things. The instructor would spend WAY too much time on every topic but as Lindsay said, not everyone is as smart as us. There was no new information again, but still good reminders and I was getting ideas of things I wanted to start doing more of at work. The day dragged on a little more than the day before. I will still trying to participate but he would either not hear me or ignore me so I eventually gave up trying.

Next to Chipotle was a place called Just Salad so I opted for that for lunch. It was delicious and I would like them to open one near me in Houston, please. I read my book during break and the rest of the day was about the same as the morning.

We were dismissed around 4:30pm again and I headed back to the apartment. There was not enough rain to warrant an umbrella but definitely enough to want one. I was happy to have my trench coat to keep me dry, even if I was hot underneath. Someone slipped on a grate on the sidewalk so naturally I did not step on a grate the rest of the week.

Steven had a rough day and I was feeling blue so I stopped for wine once I got back into Brooklyn. I got us 2 bottles, just in case. I beat Steven home and took Topher on a 30 minute walk. He was out of poop bags so I felt horrible for not being able to pick up after him on the sidewalk. Luckily, no one was around to see it. If it had been grass, fine, I would not feel so bad but it was on the sidewalk! My bad. Steven got back as we were finishing up our walk. Topher was my best friend the rest of the trip, by the way. You take a pup on a long walk one time and suddenly he worships the ground you walk on. Love that Toph-a-loaf.

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I caught up on work and we drank wine and ordered a pizza. He ordered surprise desserts for us (mine was chocolate ice cream with chocolate Teddy Grahams; he knows me so well). Yes, I already complained about gaining weight 10x in this post and then had pizza, wine, and ice cream for dinner. He was sad. I was sad. We enabled each other. This is my problem; drowning in misery with no motivation to get out. We talked about all of our problems and joked about how it is a miracle neither of us have jumped in front of a subway train yet. We got drunk. Game 6 of the World Series for the Astros was coming on right as Uyen was getting back so we set that up and watched it. We used Chromecast to stream it from Fox’s website on my laptop using my Xfinity account. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Steven went to sleep and Uyen and I watched most of it. I called it quits around the 7th inning.

My brain tortured me again before I fell asleep: this time, reflecting on a moment that made me look and feel SO stupid. Someone had asked me about 4 months into the relationship how things were going with me and the guy. I smiled ear to ear, like a fool, and said things were going amazingly and that I was very, very happy. That things were perfect. Not 2 weeks later, he broke up with me. That moment replays in my head and heart over and over again. How dare I be happy. How dare I be confident. I should have never said anything. If I feel THIS strongly for someone who is supposedly not “my person,” all I can hope is that my feelings will be 10x stronger for the man who is “my person.” How can I trust myself though? I continue to be wrong. Either way, you can bet that I will never confidently tell someone that things are going amazingly again. I read until I fell asleep.

Wednesday, October 30

I started to get restless. I woke up and left later but still arrived with plenty of time. I figured out everyone’s secret though: they wear boots and coats but underneath, they must just be in tank tops. How else do they survive the subway??? I had a sweater picked out but opted for a tshirt. It looked ridiculous with my boots but it was raining again and I felt bloated (likely from all that delicious hot chocolate) and miserable so I did not care. I did not get any hot chocolate though, so that was good progress. 

It was our last day of training. The screen had been difficult to see and read all week but I finally had enough of it. I just gave up. All of our examples and exercises were based on hypothetical situations and since we all come from different companies who define “projects” differently, it was just a pain. Whenever he asked me for an example, I would provide one but then he would give input and it would frustrated me because he has no other knowledge of the situation. That should not have bothered me but like I said, I was beginning to feel restless and ready to go. My head hurt and I was anxious. I worked a lot and was getting frustrated at this one project that has been going on too long. 

Steven said the best salad at Just Salad was this buffalo chicken one so I ordered that for lunch. It was delicious and spicy. 

Our course wrapped up at 3pm. There was a guy completely cracked out on the subway. It was honestly a bit frightening. I hope he got to wherever he was going safely. The good news, though, is that by this point I was feeling very comfortable (minus the heat) on the subway so I was able to read and relax a little bit more. 

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Steven and I had talked about going to yoga together but I think we were both done. I got back to his apartment, walked Topher, then read in bed until I fell asleep. He got back around 5:30pm and I continued my nap after letting him in. City life is exhausting. 

When I finally got up, Steven said he had ordered halal for us. I ordered us dessert. Hey, at least we did not have wine this time. Steven went to bed and Uyen and I watched Game 7 for the Astros. We smartened up and this time logged into the Fox app on their Apple TV and it was SO much better. I took Topher for a walk during the 5th inning and painfully watched the rest of the game. Everyone in Houston was about 30-60 seconds ahead of us so Uyen and I had to be careful with our phones. Her sister and/or my friend would text one of us with something disappointing and we would know that something bad was about to happen! Spoilers. Anyway, the Astros lost. Disappointing. It was a late night but my nap helped me survive.

I read until about 1am when I finally fell asleep.

Thursday, October 31

My flight back to Houston was at 10am so I was up early with Steven. I had to pack; how do I always leave NY with more things than when I arrived? My skin was itching ALL night and keeping me up so I did not sleep well. I thought it was maybe because my skin was dry but when I went to get ready, I saw little bite marks all over my arms and chest. They looked like mosquito bites. Ouch.

Steven and I said our goodbyes. It was fun getting to spend a whole week with him and I appreciated him letting me crash at his apartment and invade his space. I ordered my Uber and was at the airport by 7:30am. I grabbed some breakfast tacos and worked until my flight. A guy at the restaurant, who sounded Australian, made a comment about how weird it was that Americans put eggs in their burritos and 2 teenagers who seemingly did not know each other, said “follow me on Instagram” as they parted ways. I love eavesdropping at airports.
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I picked up little “I ❤ NY” shirts for my nieces (and chocolate per Olivia’s request) and boarded the plane. I read a little and eventually fell asleep. I finished my book when I woke up, just as we were starting our descent into Houston. Perfect timing, again. For anyone keeping count, I read 3 books on this trip.

It was colder in Houston than in NY but I was prepared. I made it back to my car and then to my sister’s house to pick up Elliott. My brother joined us and we all had a fun Halloween. Justin made a great stew and the girls had fun trick or treating in their Parent Trap costumes. They would get into “Position 1” as we started calling it at every front door. Position 1 = holding up their torn picture so people would know who they were. I was a warm monkey. It is tough to see but in the bottom pictures, Olivia is holding a sock full of coins because she was Hallie and Hallie did that in the movie. Amazing.

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I did not officially make it back to my own apartment until 9pm so it was a LONG day. The worst part? Even after a great trip and fun night with my family, I felt empty when I got home. That is my life. Everyone says “make the most of being single” and “be happy with yourself” and all of that and sure, that is great advice but what is so wrong with wanting to come home to someone? With wanting to go on a trip with someone and share fun memories like this with someone? Even with just being at home and doing nothing with someone? Every trip feels tainted by my clinical depression and loneliness. I recognize I have my family and friends and I am thankful for them but what is wrong with wanting more? Normally, I would post a picture from Halloween on social media and say something amazing and sweet about the evening (which would all be true) but that would only be half the story; the other half being trapped in sadness. That is a good example of not being myself on social media and why I needed to delete it. Being myself would be telling people the full story and who wants that mess? I can be open and honest here, but not there.

It really was a good trip. I know I sound like a downer and sometimes I can be but I had a good time and am glad I was able to go. I was reminded of some valuable things during the training and had a great week hanging out with Steven. My other issues will get addressed eventually. I am starting to finally feel motivated to pick up the pieces and get myself together and with no personal OR work trips planned for awhile, hopefully I can stay focused and on track.

Until next time,

Jillian

… to Maryland

As you may or may not know by now, I am a certified Bikram Yoga Instructor. I spent 9 weeks in Acapulco, Mexico training to be able to teach this yoga that I love (and sometimes hate) so much. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the most amazing roommate during that time, Leah.

I am fully convinced I would not have survived Mexico without Leah. We each had our own friend groups and did our own things but at the end of the day, we would vent and laugh and cry with each other. We got closer as the weeks went on and as much as I wanted to be alone sometimes, I was so thankful to share a room with her and have her ear to complain to and her potato chips to snack on. Anyway, I will try not to bore you with our friendship but you can read about it in past posts if you feel so inclined.

Training was 2 years ago but let us flash forward to present day. Leah and I text every few months to catch up but had not had the opportunity to see each other again. It was probably May or June of this year when we were texting and I just decided, “screw it, I am going!” and booked my flights. I had a ton of miles with United that I had been saving up for nothing particular so I figured this would be a wonderful use for them. Booked! I was so excited that we were going to get to visit again! We needed to plan what we were going to do but the trip was still a few months away; there was no rush.

I contacted her studio, Bikram Yoga Works, and told them I was coming to take Leah’s class and wanted to know if it would be possible for me to teach a class so she could take mine, too. Ty, the studio manager, called me and we spoke for a little bit. Ty said they were a DIALOGUE studio and wanted to be sure I used the dialogue, too. I assured that I was 100% dialogue and Leah could vouch since we had studied together so much. Ty said if Leah vouched for me, then everything was good to go. She was so nice and accommodating; I liked the studio already!

The weeks went by and Leah and I planned almost 0% of the trip! Shocking, I know. I picked a random hotel near the studio (which ended up being perfectly located near the studio, her house, and her friends’ houses) and we talked about things we could do but we never really put together a plan. For once, I was okay with that. All I knew was that we were going to do yoga, teach yoga, and have an all-around yoga weekend. I had been absent from the hot room for a few weeks/months (a class every now and then) between being swamped at work, traveling for work, and a clinging to a struggling relationship so I felt like I needed a nice kickstarter to get focused again. Bikram Yoga is so wonderful and amazing but when I am feeling stressed or depressed, I get scared of it and tend to avoid the studio. I know the yoga will bring out the truth in my life and sometimes I do not feel strong enough to face it, so I hide from it. I hide from one of the few things that I genuinely love; how insane is that? I needed our yoga weekend. It would not be the yoga “bubble” I had for 9 weeks but it would be a perfect mini bubble to help me breathe for a minute.

Friday, August 30

I said goodbye to my boyfriend of almost 6 months knowing that we would likely break up, for the 3rd and final time, upon my return. He knew it, too, but neither of us were willing to say it in that moment. We had pretended long enough; what was a few more days? I did as I usually do and cried during the drive to the airport, cried at the airport, and cried on the plane. I loved him more than I have loved any other guy I have dated; I knew the coming weeks would be insanely difficult so I NEEDED this weekend. It would be nice to leave or return from a trip without tears and heartache. I look forward to that day.

My flight was scheduled to land with BARELY enough time to Uber to the studio and be able to take Leah’s 6pm class. The schedule had been discussed when I first reached out months prior but it had been so long that I think we all just… forgot… and Leah had to make some last minute trades with other teachers to get us both on the schedule for the weekend. Unfortunately, that meant she was only teaching Friday evening so if I did not get there in time, I was not going to be able to take her class at all. One of the main reasons of the trip was to be able to teach each others’ classes so we kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the best.

The drive was so beautiful. Maryland is so green. I love how every place I visit is so different. The yoga Gods must have heard us because I arrived at her studio just before 5:30pm. I jumped out of the Uber and hauled my suitcase up the stairs to the studio entrance. Leah was sitting at the front desk and leaped up to greet me! Neither of us understood how I got there in time but we were both excited. There was not a lot of time before class and Leah was doing double duty and working the front desk so she quickly gave me a tour and I got ready for class. Her studio was amazing! It was so spacious and welcoming. Leah introduced me to everyone that came in and everyone was so kind. I loved the vibe there. A lot of the studios I have been to have drama and bad vibes but her studio was special; I could tell. I hope everyone who goes there knows how lucky they are to have such a great space with great energy and that they never take it for granted.

Leah’s class started promptly at 6pm and it was exactly as I had imagined it would be. Like I said, we were roommates  and studied together so I had a sense of how she would teach but you never really know. She is an amazing teacher! It was my first class in a few weeks and she absolutely kicked my ass. That studio was H-O-T. I was drenched. I was dehydrated. I was emotional (yoga does that when you are already feeling some-type-of-way). Leah – you are an outstanding teacher and I glad I was able to get there in time to take your class! I love your passion, enthusiasm, encouragement, and knowledge! You exceeded all expectations.

We socialized with everyone after class then got cleaned up for dinner. Her best friend, Yazz, was joining us. They chose a nearby restaurant, Busboy’s. It had a cool vibe and the weather was so nice that we sat out on the patio. We decided to split a bottle of wine and share a few appetizers as our dinner. I had completely forgotten Leah was vegan so I was glad she reminded me when I suggested meat options. I was down for whatever so I had no issue with vegan options; vegan food can be delicious, y’all.

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Yazz is a yoga-pro and has considered going to Bikram training before so I did not feel bad that we spent most of our dinner discussing yoga. I usually try to avoid it as to not leave people out but Yazz knew just as much, if not more, than me so it was great. We could all probably talk about yoga forever. Leah caught me up on all of the latest in her life. When we text, we usually do not go into great detail about things but she was saving her juiciest stories for when I was there. Thank goodness because they. were. juicy. The drama was unreal. Leah is such a champ! Whether it was the wine or her entertaining stories, I will never know but we had a great evening. Eventually, they dropped me off at my hotel for the evening. It was only then, did I start to feel crushed again about the impending doom of my relationship.

Saturday, August 31

Leah picked me up bright and early the next morning so we could take the 7am class. Oy! We had grand plans to do a double (back to back classes) but neither of us really wanted to. Ambiya was teaching and I was looking forward to her class. She was Leah’s mentor and had visited Leah at training so I already knew her a little bit. Her class was great! Sometimes, I wish I can record a teacher and say the things they say but then it would not be “my” class; it would be a clone of theirs (womp womp). I loved Amiya’s class though. Leah and I both died at least 3-4 times during class and towards the end, gave each other a look that we both understood to mean “we are NOT staying for another class.” Hell. No. I was so happy when class was over and very ready to be out of the hot room; did I mention that studio is HOT? Whew. Somehow during the 30 minute break between classes, we talked ourselves into staying for the next class. We put ourselves in the back of the room and did our best; the second class is always easier in some ways and more difficult in others. We survived. I am glad we stayed to do a double! I was proud of us for sticking it out and committing to the original plan… even if my body was exhausted. The more frequently my brain could be distracted from the issues at home though, the better.

We cleaned up after class and picked up her friends Yazz and Danni to go to brunch. We chose Busboy’s again since they have a variety of vegan options. Danni also practices yoga and works at the studio so again, we talked all-things yoga among other things. I shared with them my relationship problems and they shared their crazy relationship stories with me. It is always a little scary meeting new people, especially when those people are all best friends and you are the odd woman out, but I felt like I had know them all for years. All 4 of were different in so many ways but we all got along great; very easy and natural. Having only really known Leah in a limited capacity before, I was thankful that everything was so smooth not only with us, but with her friends, too. That might sound silly but it helped make the weekend all the more enjoyable. Leah was very self-protecting at training and even though we were friends, it was obvious she did not open up fully. I had learned more about Leah in less than 24 hours than I had in 9 weeks!

After brunch, we made the short drive over to D.C. to be tourists for the afternoon. I mentioned my blog and they insisted we take touristy photos. It did not last long because we are adults and we forget.

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We started at the National Garden. It was hot as hell outside and humid AF inside but we are all hot yoga lovers and managed just fine. The gardens were lovely and we did our best to get some fun yoga pictures.

We snapped some pictures in front of the capitol.

Our plan was to walk around and wander into random museums until we were tired. We went into the National Museum of the American Indian but did not last long in there. It was too frustrating that there was not a lot of acknowledgement that colonists stole everything from them and the established government treated them like garbage. We got too political and had to go for our own sake.

We debated going into the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum but since Leah’s dad works for NASA and I am from Houston, we skipped it. Fun fact: Leah did not know there was NASA in Houston. I reminded her of the very, very famous phrase, “Houston, we have a problem” and she legitimately responded with, “Oh, I thought Houston was a person.” *facepalm* (Sorry, Leah. This was too funny not to share!)

The next stop was the Hirshhorn Museum. The one very cool. It had a lot of interesting artwork and experiences. The most insane one was a room full of large screens playing short videos. Kate Blanchett aws the star of each video but was in such disguise/character that she was not always noticeable. The most INSANE part of the thing was that as we were walking through, suddenly all of the videos synced up and were on a close-up of her character and saying the same thing. It was spooky and gave us all chills. I cannot even explain it.

It had been a long day and our parking was expiring so we decided to be finished. They dropped me off at the hotel so we could all go our separate ways and rest for a couple of hours. I tried to nap but once again, was alone and suddenly consumed with grief and sadness. I had a fun day so it was unfortunate that every moment I was lone left me feeling horrible and depressed.

Leah and Yazz picked me up a few hours later and we went to dinner at Sticky Rice. The service was awful but the food was delicious! We ordered way too much. The dumplings were probably the best ones I had ever eaten and for some reason, the restaurant served tator tots so we chowed down on those and the amazing sauce that accompanied them. Everything was so good. It had been a long day, though, so we kept the evening short. Remember, Leah and I had already taken 2 classes that morning and combined with the amount of walking around we did all afternoon… yikes. It was time to rest.

That night, I pushed him and we broke up over text (the first time was in person and the second was over the phone so this seemed like a natural progression). He insisted on waiting for us to talk until we were both back in town but I did not want to wait. I did not want it to happen ever but if it was going to happen, I did not feel there was benefit in having another face-to-face conversation about it. Maybe that was wrong, maybe it was right. I do not know. Neither of us actually had to say/write the words ending it, but we knew. It was a rough night.

Sunday, September 1

Leah picked me up bright and early again. Neither of us wanted to go to class; I was physically and mentally exhausted from the day before. We powered through! Poor Leah had to do another double because it was finally my turn to teach. We both took Maggie’s class and proving that the world was small, Maggie knew the owner of the studio I taught at in Katy. She went to teacher training with the owner’s daughter! Maggie taught a great class. Ty was not lying when she had initially told me the studio was a dialogue-only studio. I was nervous for my class and how the students would receive me.

Leah introduced me to everyone who walked in and some people looked a little apprehensive about a different teacher (which I completely understand). I was nervous! Her studio did not have a podium and I had never taught off a podium before. They also did not have microphones (which I hate using anyway) so I was nervous about “yelling.” There were 2 large columns in the room I was nervous about not being able to see around. The room was not carpeted which meant for 3 of the postures, the students would have to turn sideways and be on their mat instead of straddling it and I was nervous I would not set them up correctly. I did not know how to use the heat or the fans. Everything was different but I wanted the students to feel like nothing was. Not to mention, I was not feeling 100% present in the moment because of the breakup. I had not told Leah yet and it was weighing pretty heavily on my heart. I was worried I would not be able to give my all to the students because of it. My mind was elsewhere.

I wore my Texas flag leggings and introduced myself to the group. Danni secretly took video and posted it on Instagram later (sneaky). Class was great, though! I felt frazzled but because I had the dialogue to lean on, I do not think the students noticed anything different. Leah helped me run the heat and fans and I told the students to thank her because otherwise, I would have left it alone and they would have “died.” It was very bizarre not being on a podium since I am so short; it was tough to see everyone. I thought it was a great class though; the students there are obviously very disciplined and dedicated. I received compliments after the class so hopefully those were genuine and they enjoyed it! I was glad Leah got to take my class even though she had to do a double to be able to. She had the same feedback to me as I had to her: it was exactly how she expected it to be. All that studying together! We might not have known every detail about each others’ lives but we absolutely knew each others’ teaching style. It is funny how that happens.

I cleaned up after class and because the studio offered other services besides yoga, I decided to take advantage of them. They had Cryotherapy and PEMF and Ty offered both to me at a discounted rate (thanks, Ty). I tried Cryotherpahy first and wow, what an experience. It was 3 minutes in a -125 degree tank. I had to strip down to a sports bra and shorts and wear protective socks/shoes and gloves. I was used to being in a hot as hell room but this was… cold as hell! Freezing. Terri was operating it for me and she stayed and talked me through the whole ordeal. The 3 minutes went by fairly quickly; she was talented at distracting me via conversation. She was also very good at explaining to me all the ins and outs of Cyrotherapy and the benefits of it Y’all, it was cold. Terri gave me my robe before opening the door to free me. It was the most bizarre sensation leaving that tank! I am not sure I would do this regularly but I am glad I tried it at least once. I hate being cold. I recommend it if you want to try something new or have chronic pain but I cannot say it changed my life (although she told me stories of people who swear by it).

 

Next up was PEMF. Now THIS was something I can get behind. I absolutely recommend this because it completely healed my neck/shoulder issues I had been having for months. All I had to do for this was lay on a table. Seriously. Terri and the table did the rest. The table released electromagnetic pulses that are meant to heal the body somehow. If I thought the Cryo was a bizarre sensation, this topped it. She could control the pulse level and increased it until I felt it was uncomfortable. It was not painful in any way, just a bizarre feeling that I cannot quite put into words (I am not THAT talented of a writer). It was weird. She asked if I had any particular areas that were bothering me and I mentioned the issues with my left shoulder/neck. She placed an extra “pad” on that side to treat it. Normal treatment lasts an hour but because my flight was later that afternoon, I only did 30 minutes so Leah, Yazz, and I could get in a few last minute shenanigans before takeoff. If I knew it would be that amazing, I would have done the full hour. I am writing this post a full 2 months later and I still have not had any shoulder/neck issues since. 10/10, would recommend.

I said goodbye to the studio and thanked everyone for letting me practice and teach there all weekend. Leah, Yazz, and I went grabbed some Thai food for lunch before our next step.

On our way to the Baltimore Pier. On the way, we found some cool graffiti and decided to be basic yogis and snap photos.

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The pier was fun to experience and the weather was nice. We did not have a lot of time before I needed to get to the airport but I could imagine someone could spend the whole day there. It reminded me of Kemah Boardwalk here in Texas; a lot of random things to do, eat, and see.

The airport was nearby so they dropped me off after. We all said our goodbyes and I had an easy flight home. It was great to see Leah again and be part of her world for a little bit. It was great to embrace yoga again. It was great to get away. It was a fun mini vacation and I dreaded going home. I cried, per usual. I knew what was waiting for me (hint: nothing, anymore) and I wanted to run away from it.

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Thank you, Leah, for allowing me to visit and showing me around! Thank you to Bikram Yoga Works for the traditional classes and unique extra experiences (particularly for healing my shoulder/neck). It was nice to be back in a mini bubble. Leah, you and your friends are welcome to Houston any time!

Until next time,

Jillian

… to Fredericksburg

The idea of turning 30 used to “scare” me but as the years went on, fear turned into excitement. Being in my 20s was SUCH a roller coaster and the idea of having a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning… was appealing. I know that things do not magically change overnight, but for arguments sake, let us pretend that at midnight, I levitated into the air, spun around in a glitter tornado in a very Cinderella-esque manner, and landed as a brand new woman in a fabulous gown.

With that said, I had zero desire to throw a big “I’m 30” hoopla; partly because big groups (even of people that I love) are a lot for me and partly because I do not like rejection and did not want my friends to tell me they were not available. I am such an adult. *sarcasm* A few months ago, my siblings and I started doing a monthly sibling brunch where we catch up about our lives and discuss plans for the upcoming months (family events, etc.). In January, my sister brought up my birthday and apparently my suggestion of “maybe do a dinner some night” was trash because she immediately shut it down and instead suggested a weekend in Fredericksburg. I had never been as an adult and only recently fell madly in love with wine so while I had considered the idea to myself, I told her no one would go. She questioned if I had even asked anyone (I had not) and forced me to text some friends. I did… and within an hour, Kelsey had a trip changed so she could make it and Steven had a flight booked to Houston from New York. Jill’s 30th was officially on.

We had 2 months to prep and boy did we use it. Picking a house, meals, wineries, etc. was a part time job all on its own. Thank God for my family and friends because I could not have ever done it alone. Dad, Suzette, Jessica, and I got together one night at Dad’s house and over a nice steak dinner and 4 bottles of wine, we had a tentative game plan and a decently sized hangover. The game plan was shared with Steven and he whipped out one of his famous Google Docs. Invites were sent, a house was booked, wineries were picked, outfits were bought, and it all came together smoothly. This trip 100% would not have happened without the effort of that group; not just for helping plan and coordinate, but for keeping me sane and calming me down along the way.

The highly anticipated weekend finally arrived and I was beyond excited. I could not wait. I had so much to pack and coordinate with my co-hosts on their lists of things to bring but we were ready. I also had to bonus pack for a work trip to Corpus Christi that immediately followed the trip (plus for Elliott, of course). My car was full but I still had last minute errands to run so on Thursday, my boyfriend humored me and let me drag him to several different stores and helped me tackle my list. He treated me to a delicious Korean BBQ dinner afterward so I think we both won! Also, we survived our first time running errands together so that was cute. It was game time.

Friday, March 15

I went to my Dad’s house at 7am to help them pack and get ready but them being them, they were already ready to go when Elliott and I arrived. That little pup LOVES Dad and Suzette. It is so unbelievably cute to watch him scurry into their house and run around searching for them. The excitement when he sees them (and Kelsey, too) is insane. I am so grateful that he loves them but even more grateful that they love him just as much and that he always has a safe, loving place to go when I am out of town. Knowing that he is in good, trusting hands puts me at ease every time and I will never stop expressing my gratitude for them taking on my responsibility as frequently as they have (my new job has required more travel than I anticipated). Dad and Suzette were coming on the trip so Kelsey was the DDM for the weekend: Designated Dog Mom.

If you are a regular reader of this “blog” you know Steven and I have been friends for over a decade. It might shock you to learn that he had only met my parents once our Junior year of High School and my parents had never met his parents. I had to pick up Steven from his Mom’s house that morning and since his Mom lives literally less than 5 miles from my Dad, we all went together and Steven’s Mom and Stepdad met my Dad and Stepmom. Are they new best friends? Probably. We all visited for a little bit and then it was time to leave for the next stop: Kolaches.

Any residents of Cypress here? These Cypress people love Koala Kolache. My family has had it several times and while I have never understood what the big deal is, I do agree they are good. Do I prefer Kolache Factory? Yes. I bought everyone breakfast and we headed over to HEB to put gas in the cars and meet up with Katy and Paul so we could caravan together. Suzette was the only one who had met them before so everyone was shouting hello and introductions through open windows. We are fun.

Finally, we were on the road! Poor Alex got stuck riding with Steven and me and listening to Ariana Grande for 3.5 hours. No joke. Steven and I had planned our playlist weeks ago and there was no changing it. Sorry (not sorry), Alex! He was a trooper.

We all stopped in Giddings, TX for a break and to pick up Sunday’s breakfast from McDonald’s. Kelsey’s (not our DDM, but my BFF Kelsey) Stepmom had the brilliant idea for Kelsey’s bachelorette party years ago to bring McDonald’s breakfast for the last day so breakfast was fast and easy with a quick cleanup. Dad and Suzette had offered to provide all of the food for us for the weekend so Kelsey’s parents offered to donate McDonald’s breakfast to us from one of the stores they own. Thank you, Kevin and Carla!! Our families are so close and are always there for each other so I thought it was so sweet of them to do that for us.

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We drove for about 2 more hours and finally made it to Fredericksburg, TX! Steven and I were literally looking at the GPS thinking, “10 more minutes until we have wine, 9 more minutes until we have wine…” and so on. At least it was after 12pm so we did not seem like total crazies.

Our first stop was William Chris Wines. Steven had looked it up prior to the trip and it appeared to be reservation only but we gave it a try anyway. They were busy and we did not feel like waiting it out so we took a bathroom break and carried on. Plus, it was so cold and windy outside! *mentally restarted the countdown clock until we have wine*

Next up: Grape Greek Vineyards. Wow! This place was GORGEOUS! We signed up for a tasting and did not have to wait long. Alex had never really had wine before so he was getting into it. Dad and Suzette have never met a stranger so they were talking the host up while Steven and I just quietly sipped our glasses. It was nice to be out of the car and finally kicking off the highly-anticipated weekend. I am not usually a fan of white wines but they had a really decent one so I was already learning a lot and surprising myself. Must be those well-developed 30-year-old taste buds.

They had a great lunch menu so we decided to eat there. Katy and Paul grabbed an awesome table outside by some heaters (y’all know I am always cold) and we ordered a few bottles of wine. Steven and I split a pizza and it was delicious. Since Katy and Paul were in a separate car, I had not really gotten to talk to them yet so we caught up on the latest happenings. It was so crazy to be hanging out with my friends and family and watch everyone get along so well (note: this was not the only time I had this thought over the weekend). I loved it and it made me excited for everyone else to get there!

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The VRBO house was not available until 3pm so we decided to take a group trip to HEB. Dad and Suzette had packed most of the food for the weekend but we all needed some supplies and last minute things. By this point, we had done a tasting and as a group, finished 3 bottles of wine so we were feeling pretty good. Suzette joked about us walking into HEB and having a “Bad Moms” grocery store montage moment and honestly, the odds of that happening were pretty good. If you have not seen that scene, please stop reading immediately and go watch it. I could not stop laughing. The first thing I grabbed at HEB was a bag of potato chips from an aisle end cap… just be happy I did not rip it open and start snackin’. Steven bought a little bouquet of flowers because he is cute AF, we got all the items on our lists, and we were out of there.

I picked up the keys to the house and we made our way to it. The guy did not even check my ID! So trusting. The house had 5 “suites” (each suite had a bedroom, bathroom, and living room with a fold-out couch) so we scoped them all out and made a plan on who would unpack where. The house was cute as hell and had PLENTY of space for everyone. It was definitely a maze to navigate around but we figured it out like the smart adults we are and started getting to work unloading the cars. We unpacked, decorated, and then enjoyed some wine and relaxed while we waited for Jessica, Justin, and Kelsey to arrive. Jessica and Justin got there just before 5pm and Kelsey arrived shortly after. We unpacked their cars and finished setting up decorations and settling.

Just about EVERYONE I had mentioned this trip told me that we HAD to go to Hondo’s one night so when it came time for dinner, that was where we went. Would it had been easier to order food to the house or go somewhere that had a big enough table inside/out of the cold for us? Yes. Did the birthday girl want to go to Hondo’s? Yes.

This place was insane. A madhouse. You order inside in line and then they buzz you to a separate area to pick up the food. The inside was PACKED so the line was a mess of people. Suzette found a table outside and held it down while we all ran around like crazy people trying to coordinate menus and drinks. Steven won the Hondo’s award though because he came up with the brilliant idea to go to the separate bar line and buy 3 bottles of wine so we did not have to deal with a variety of orders and refills (and so we could start drinking and not have to wait). Well done, Steven!

The patio area was awesome. It was chilly out but with the fences around the courtyard blocking the wind, it was not too bad. The food was delicious! Kelsey and I split a burger and Dad tried sweet potato fries for the first time. Everyone was having such a fun time and I really loved being surrounded by the laughter and jokes. Steven tossed me curly fries from across the table and after I think 3 (maybe 4) attempts, I caught one! I was having fun. I think everyone was!

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I LOVE THIS PICTURE

Kelsey read my mind at some point and asked what was for dessert that night. We had nothing planned but had already decided to make a fire pit at the house so Kelsey and I suggested we make S’mores. I do not think anyone else cared as much about dessert or S’mores… but Kelsey and I were determined so while everyone went to the house, the two of us went to HEB for supplies. Apparently we were not the only people in town who had the idea because the marshmallow selection was limited and the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars were GONE. Gone. We grabbed a dark chocolate bar and some Reese’s peanut butter cups as replacements but we still wanted the classics. Kelsey won the HEB award (all my friends deserve awards, honestly) and suggested we go look by the checkout lanes for Hershey bars and BAM, there were more than enough. So freaking smart.

We drove back to the house and they already the fire going. Apparently Steven had wandered off to take photos, as Steven does, and started walking back yelling “I got sticks!” and it made everyone laugh. I love that guy. Justin and Alex built an awesome fire and we gathered around to enjoy the night. It was cold but with the fire, it was a perfect evening.

Y’all, we were a damn mess that night. Dad and Suzette had brought wine and we had all bought some at HEB and we went through ALLLLL of it the first night. ALL. OF. IT. We lost some wine glasses along the way (do not worry, we donated more than we broke behind when we left on Sunday) and it was such a wonderful night. Paul had his first S’more ever, we took photos, and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I love these people. We played a few daring rounds of “never have I ever” which was something else considering my FATHER was there. Facepalm. But, we all kept it mostly clean and it was fun to share stories with everyone. I can struggle with self worth and accepting that people care about me (especially after the last year) but it really filled my love tank up to be with everyone and have such a fun evening. I had no doubt my friends and family would all get along but it was nice to see everyone come together, too.

Over the next few hours, the rest of the party started to arrive. Mom and Robert showed up just in time to get a few drinks before we finished everything. Luke (my neighbor of 3ish years from my last apartment) was next, followed by Alex (my friend I met while volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House at Texas Children’s Hospital) and her boyfriend Bobby. Poor Alex and Bobby got there so late and went straight to sleep! Luckily, I had already set up all the fold-out beds for everyone so that no one had to worry about it after an evening of drinking. I am such a team-mom sometimes (I was also cleaning up bottles of wine and whatnot as we went, hehe). Everyone hung out until about midnight before turning in. It had been a long, fun day and we needed rest for Saturday! Day 1 was amazing.

Saturday, March 16

You would think after a night (ahem, day) of drinking, we would all sleep in but nope, apparently our internal clocks are all permanently set to “work mode” and most everyone was alive and functioning fairly early. Steven and I shared a room and were both up around 7:15am. The plan was to have breakfast at 9am and leave for our first winery at 10am so we took it easy. We enjoyed our pillow talk and laughed our asses off. Friend Alex (not Brother Alex), in the next room, texted me “omg y’all are so cute” because we were giggling so loud. We stretched and talked about the day before. Steven needs to move back home to Houston, stat. I miss him too much when he is gone!

Dad and Suzette started on breakfast and put Luke to work helping. They made eggs with sausage and biscuits and it was all delicious. We also had mimosas and bloody mary’s, of course. Most everyone was awake, ready to go, and fed by 9am! I had fun getting ready with my girls in the morning too! We were so ahead of schedule so we enjoyed the leisure time until it was time to head out. PS – I had been so worried about the weather but it was a slightly chilly and beautiful day! We got lucky!

Our first stop was Becker Vineyards for our 10:30am tasting. Todd and Rachel were meeting us there with his daughter and son-in-law but were running a little late coming in from Austin so we got started without them. I assumed each tasting would be about an hour since we had such a large group but it was over so fast! Too fast. I liked some of the wines and did not like some others, typical. I was kind of worried about making sure everyone was included and participating but I think it was an unnecessary worry, it was fine. I just did not want anyone to be left out!

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After the tasting, we purchased some wine and went outside to enjoy the property. Steven had picked this one because of how beautiful it was and he did a good job! The wine was average but the land was nice. I wish we had explored it a little more versus staying in one area but I wish that about all the wineries we went too. A large, drunk group can only do so much! My sister later told me that she thinks some of us (me included) forgot that the day is a marathon, not a sprint! Basically, we went too hard too fast. No shame in my game, boo. Todd and Rachel joined us and it was nice to see them! They had not met most of the people there either (at this point, not shocking since all of my friends are in different groups and no one knows each other) so we did introductions and hung out.

Our next tasting was not until 1pm so we decided to throw in an impromptu additional winery: Signor Vineyards. Y’all. Y’ALL. This place was SPECTACULAR. It was hands down my favorite winery of the weekend and it was the one place we had not planned to go. I love how that turned out! The property was breathtaking and the way they had it designed and decorated was so inviting. We did a tasting (Kelsey and I shared, thankfully) and the guys, Sammy and Aaron, were so casual and fun about it. The wine was great and I genuinely just loved this place. I wished we could have stayed there all day but with the next tasting looming, we only got about an hour and a half at Signor.

I had looked at the photos from Becker and hated that the sun was making everyone squint so I forced another round of photos. I love that they humor me!

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I cannot wait to go back to Signor and spend a much more significant amount of time there! Favorite. I wish I had bought one or two bottles of wine from them.

The next stop was Hilmy Cellars. Hilmy was… a mess. This is where we all started to fall apart and the drunkenness shined. I kept going behind the bar during the tasting, probably annoying the hell out of our host, Marshall. Todd and Rachel’s daughter, Monica, and her husband, Zaid, joined us. I had not met them yet but I have known Todd for several years and had heard so much about them both. They were awesome and while I was skeptical at first, I am so glad they came! It was great talking to them.

I mean, there is not a lot to say about Hilmy except that we were all over the place. I kept leaving the tasting to go outside and dance, then would go back inside and snack on the free popcorn and rejoin the tasting. Everyone was just sharing glasses. I had no idea which wine we were on and who was doing what. Marshall probably hated us! I somehow ended up with Katy’s hat? Yes, that question mark is intentional.

The owner (or someone of importance?) caught wind it was my birthday (/Dad chatted him up) and offered us a tour. No doubt he regretted that immediately because corralling all of us and explaining things to us was probably not easy. The tour was as short as our attention span. Luke had a family event to go to so we said goodbye to him. I was happy he could join us; I had missed hanging out with him since I moved in town a few months ago.

Shout out to Rachel for taking so many photos!

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By the time we left Hilmy, it was nearing mid-afternoon. We needed to eat. When I picked up the keys to the house on Friday, it came with 18 vouchers for a free breakfast or lunch at one of the 6 listed locations. Us being us, we OBVIOUSLY were going to utilize those so we picked a Mexican place and and all enjoyed a free lunch. Most of us used this is a time to take a break from drinking and hydrate but some just kept the party going and I love them for that! The food was decent (or we were just very hungry) but the waitress was the true star: she kicked ass.

After lunch, Kelsey and I took Friend Alex and Bobby back to the house. They needed a break. We met everyone at our last winery of the day, Pedernales Cellars, for our 5pm tasting. This was Dad and Suzette’s choice: it is their favorite. I loved the wine and the property’s views were so nice. It was a great winery to end the day at! I was definitely gone by this point but I remember sitting there with the group outside and watching all the different conversations going on and feeling happy. I know I have said it a lot but everyone clicked so well and it made me feel good to be surrounded by such a wonderful group of people: both in that moment but in life at home. The last year was something else for me and they were ALL there for me throughout the whole thing. They encouraged me, supported me, and got me through a pretty rough patch in my life and I could not be more thankful for them and our day together!

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After Pedernales, most of the group went back to the house to start on dinner. Monica and Zaid had to go back to Austin so we said goodbye to them. It was so great getting to know them! Kelsey (who 100% needs to be recognized for driving us all day!) took Katy, Paul, Steven, and I to HEB. We had depleted our water and wine supply Friday night. Kels dropped us off and we got 3 cases of water (unnecessary for ONE night left but ya know) and 7 bottles of wine (also unnecessary since we were having margaritas with dinner). Mess.

We got back to the house and I changed clothes into a dress because I felt like it. We took photos and snacked on chips and guacamole until dinner was ready. Dad and Suzette made the most outstanding enchiladas and street corn for everyone and we had more than enough food. I am so thankful that they provided food for everyone all weekend; I know it was a lot of work on their part and we all appreciated it so much! Justin makes an amazing margarita so he was on marg duty all night for everyone (I think… I honestly do not know how my glass kept being refilled). I attempted a speech to thank everyone but it was awkward as hell and I still refuse to watch the video of it. I showed my boyfriend and all he did was laugh that I started it by SAYING “ding ding ding” instead making the noise with a fork on my glass. Lord help me! I might not know what I said but I did know that I was going to cry and I was so determined NOT to. I have always cried at birthdays and was so sure I would at some point over the weekend but I had made it that far and held it together. Hooray for evolved emotional intelligence. Anyway, my heart was bursting and my love tank was overflowing and I was happy to have everyone there and enjoying a fun weekend away. It was wonderful.

It was too cold to be outside again all night so I elected to stay inside. Some people went back out and hung by the fire all night but I was more than content inside. For every birthday, Suzette asks each of us what we want for dessert. A few years ago, I said I wanted cookies. She one-upped my request and made a cookie skillet and it was BOMB. Think a BJs Pizookie but better. For this birthday, I had to have a cookie skillet and she one-upped me again and made two! The smell of the cookie must have lured everyone back inside so they sang and we devoured the dessert.

The rest of the night was chill. Everyone had gone hard all day and it was time to relax. I have no idea what the group outside was doing but inside, Dad, Suzette, Todd, Rachel, Kelsey and I talked around the kitchen table. Dad and Suzette totally clicked with them and I think they stole my friends from me… but I can share. I opened presents (even though I specifically requested no presents because their presence was a gift by itself). Steven and his mom got me 2 cute rompers and some fun goodies and Katy and Paul got me essential oils! Thank you!

When I finally made my way outside, it appeared everyone had already gone to bed! They were spent and I was too. I said goodbye to Todd and Rachel (they were staying nearby) and made my way to bed.

Sunday, March 17

Somehow, we were up and moving fairly early again. I hurt a little more than I did Saturday morning but hey, worth it. The morning was simple: eat, get ready, clean up, hit the road. The McDonald’s breakfast was perfect. Dad was heating up pancakes like a boss. I was not very hungry but I knew food would help me feel a little better so I ate them up. I think a lot of people were not feeling great because we had a LOT of breakfast left over!

There were no house rules on how to leave the house so we used our brains and left the place cleaner than when we arrived. Everyone gathered sheets and towels up into the laundry room and we took down decorations. The weekend went by WAY too fast and I was sad to have to pack everything up so soon. Teamwork for sure makes the dream work though because everything was finished and we were on the road by 10am, an hour before our 11am checkout time. I did not want to leave!

It was a long drive back. With the excitement over and our energy low, it was quiet. We chose Taylor Swift albums to entertain us on the way back but even then, it was just a draining drive. My car stopped at Sonic for a snack and again at Bucee’s for a break and gas. At Bucee’s, I ran into Friend Alex and got to sneak in some bonus hugs!

We made it back to Steven’s house around 2pm and we said our goodbyes. I am SO, SO happy he was able to come to town to celebrate my birthday and I cannot wait to go visit him in NYC for his big 3-0 in a few weeks! This trip would not have been the same without him.

I dropped Brother Alex off at Dad’s house and while I had originally planned to NOT go inside and see Elliott, I could not help myself. I had to snuggle that face of his. I double, triple, quadruple thanked Dad and Suzette for everything they did for all of us this weekend. They went above and beyond by offering to provide and prepare all of our meals and it meant a lot. I could not have executed everything as smoothly (and deliciously) on my own so I am very thankful for them. Everyone needs to give them a hug next time you see them.

I had about 2 hours before I needed to be at my office to leave for Corpus Christi for a work trip so I utilized my time wisely and visited my boyfriend. If you are wondering why he did not go… I would not subject a new relationship to meeting ALL of my family and the majority of my closest friends at the same time over the span of 3 days. I have a heart, people. I repacked my suitcase and reorganized my car and relaxed for what little time I could. I desperately needed a nap. The visit was short but I was happy to get in some QT.

From there, I drove to the office and then spent 3 hours in the car trying to be a good passenger and stay awake. Jessica had created a Dropbox folder for everyone’s photos and I guess I said 100 times that I wanted photos because everyone was incredibly prompt about sending me theirs! It was awesome and just another reason why I love them all so much.

So, I know I have said a ton of thank yous throughout this but I need these people to know how much I appreciate them for everything they did for this birthday trip:

  • Dad and Suzette – doing 100x more planning than I could ever do to pick out great recipes and grocery shop, pre-making meals for the weekend during your already-busy lives, cooking, cleaning, and generally taking care of us all weekend
  • Jessica – encouraging me to do something fun and enjoy myself and keeping me calm when I got stressed out, getting everything done and keeping us moving all weekend
  • Justin – I love your margaritas
  • Steven – Google doc-ing this whole thing, picking wineries, picking outfits, being my sounding board for every decision and moment for 2 months
  • Mom – contributing a generous amount to the cost of the house so that it was affordable for everyone and everyone had a nice, comfortable place to stay
  • Kelsey – volunteering to stay back and take care of Elliott all weekend (he loves you!)
  • My friends – you are awesome: Kelsey left Liam for the first time to come celebrate with me, none of y’all knew each other going into this and all clicked so well, for driving 4 hours to be a part of this with me after a long work week, and for always supporting and loving me even when I am a pain in your asses

It went by way too fast but I had the best weekend. Thank you to everyone for everything! My heart is full. I love y’all!

As for the rest of my birthday…

I spent Sunday night-Wednesday (Wednesday was my birthday) afternoon in Corpus. We had a ton of meetings and it was exhausting in a number of ways but it was a good trip. Ryan and Caleb took me to get a pizookie Tuesday night (they had also never had one before) and they reluctantly sang to me. It was awesome.

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When we got back to Houston, I noticed I had a flat tire on my car. That tire had been giving me trouble so it was only a matter of time something happened. At least it did not blow out while I was driving to and from Fredericksburg! It could have been worse. My awesome boyfriend met me and changed it for me. Swoon. I spent the next 2 hours at Discount Tire before spending another 1.5 hours in traffic to drive to Tomball to have dinner with my family.

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We had pizza, more wine (hehe), and cake (thirty, flirty, and thriving!). They spent all weekend celebrating me so it felt good that they tolerated me for one more bonus celebration with my nieces and grandparents. The girls even let Dad and I stand on their photo “stage”!

My nieces singing me happy birthday! This never gets old.

My boyfriend came over in the evening and brought me my favorite flowers in my favorite color and an awesome #flatearth shirt (inside joke).

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I am back in the office today and my boyfriend sent me Tiff’s Treats!

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Tonight, he is is taking me somewhere for dinner (he is keeping it a surprise). Update: we went to Taste of Texas and it was delicious! I felt special!

Tomorrow night, Lindsay and I are going to a nice dinner to celebrate each other (her 30th birthday is today and we have been friends for 15+ years!).

Turning 30 was wonderful. The BEST birthday so far.

Until next time,

Jillian

… to New York!

After a couple of rough and emotional weeks and during a much-needed phone call with my amazing friend Steven one late September night, I ended up booking tickets to go visit him in New York for early November. We had been socializing about his upcoming visit to Houston but decided it would do us both some good for me to take a trip there, too! When Steven first moved to NY after college, I went every other year to see him. It had been 4 years since my last visit though because, ya know, life gets in the way… so, a trip was long overdue (and emotionally necessary).

My first two trips to visit him had been in late November or early December and were always beyond freezing. Winter had already set in NY both times, trees were already bare, everything already frozen. Steven suggested we target a slightly earlier visit so we could go “leaf peeping” and enjoy the actual Fall season. It was the best idea he had and it was a relaxing weekend! And before you all come at me with comments: yes, Steven and I are the cutest couple of all time but we have one major thing in common… we both like men. So, enjoy our adorableness as we are! 🙂

Friday, November 2

My flight was for around noon so I woke up, finished packing (Elliott’s disapproving eyes watching the entire time), and headed over to my Dad’s house to drop Elliott off for the weekend. The poor little pup HATES seeing my suitcase. After two 4+ week trips, can I really blame him?

We arrived at my Dad’s and were greeted by him and a puppy he had found. Oy. It was clearly a house dog but there was no tag with a phone number. That little dog was playful and energetic but sure knew the word “No” when I had to stand up for Elliott since Elliott does not know how to stand up for himself. Dad and I searched for the owners for a little bit then loaded up my car so he could drive me to the airport. We brought the new dog with us so he could stop at a Vet office on his way home and check for a microchip (flash forward, we found the owner on their NextDoor app and Dad dropped the lost puppy off at his rightful home that afternoon). There was some serious traffic that forced us to drive the opposite way down an access ramp of the highway but we made it to the airport with plenty of time. I thanked my Dad approximately 100 times for watching Elliott AGAIN (and for driving me… again) and headed inside.

The flight to NY always seems to go by quickly and I arrived in what seemed like no time at all. I caught an Uber to Steven’s new apartment. He and his roommate, Uyen (who also went to High School with us but graduated a year after us), had moved to a different area of Brooklyn and I was excited to see their new place. It was around 5:30pm so traffic was a little… trafficky… but the Uber ride was short. The Uber driver was a young student and was so friendly. I am so horrible at starting conversations with strangers after the friendly initial greetings but he was really good at keeping it going. I enjoyed talking to him!

I got to Steven’s apartment shortly after he got home from work – perfect timing. He, Uyen, and Topher (his cute mini Australian Shepherd) greeted me and gave me a tour of the new place. As expected, it was perfectly decorated and totally fitting to their style. The place seemed smaller than their old one but their kitchen and bathroom were HUGE upgrades compared to the old apartment. It was lovely!

Steven and I changed and freshened up and headed to the city to meet Meghan, Steven’s co-worker, for dinner and drinks. I had purchased the most awesome trench coat and was excited to wear it! We headed to the subway and I did not even realize we had crossed into the city until Steven mentioned it days later (I assumed we were in Brooklyn still) – goes to show how much I get turned around when I am there. I can navigate the world but get to NY and always feel upside down! Our first stop was The Immigrant, a wine bar. It was a low-key place and we had a round of drinks and got to know each other. I was a little anxious about there being another person there (and someone I did not know!) but it was great. Steven is always so good at making sure everyone is included in the conversation and comfortable. I appreciate that quality about him!

After drinks, we went to dinner at John’s at 12th Street, an Italian restaurant that Steven and Uyen had raved about. Expectations were high and were 100% met. Italian is not typically my favorite type of food but I got the Chicken Parmesan and it was everything. The restaurant had been on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network so you know it was good. The portion was HUGE so I gladly shared some with Steven. The vibe there was really cool and they had these candles that had burned forever which reminded me of an old cash-only bar in downtown Houston I had visited once. This restaurant happened to be cash-only too. Must be a thing!

Dinner was amazing and once we were stuffed, we headed to one more bar for a final round of drinks at Pierre Loti. It was another wine bar and it was completely packed so our time there was short.

Steven and I headed home and obviously had a photo shoot in the subway. Obviously.

We had a few more drinks at his fabulous kitchen table and I briefly video chatted with my friend Andrew who was in Mexico for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I know what it is like to be there so I always make sure to answer when he called – it takes some serious support from friends and family to survive that training and he was totally there for me when I was away so I wanted to reciprocate.

It was late so we called it an evening. It was quite possibly the first time I felt distracted and remotely happy in weeks and for a few moments, I felt like I could breathe again. I was grateful to be there and peacefully fell asleep with ease; my anxieties of life completely erased, even if temporary.

Saturday, November 3

Steven had a long day planned for us! Past visits had taken us into the city and being a part of the hustle and bustle but this time, he planned a trip upstate to an outdoor sculpture park and some wineries.

Uyen was joining us so we all got up and got ready for the day. I struggled getting out of bed in favor of snuggling with Topher just a little longer but eventually managed to get myself up. Steven and I walked to pick up the rental car from Enterprise; he had made the great decision to drive ourselves versus taking trains and cabs everywhere to get up there. It was going to be a nearly 2 hour drive so we wanted to be comfortable. The walk to Enterprise was a little longer than I anticipated and even though it was cold and incredibly windy out, I had started to warm up! Plus, I was feeling all sorts of dehydrated from the night before and was nursing a decently sized migraine. I stopped to buy water for the day to try and get ahead of any issues.

We drove back to the apartment, picked up Uyen, and started our drive. The park was in NY but we had to drive through New Jersey first and we passed some of the most amazing color trees I had ever seen. It truly was Fall.

Realizing none of us had eaten, we stopped for breakfast at Matthew’s Diner. Steven wanted a “real diner” experience and this was the best we could find along our route. It was in the town of Waldwich which we had all immediately decided was haunted. Something about it just gave a haunting feel! Brunch was decent. I think we all spent more time trying to get a good video of Steven pouring syrup onto his pumpkin pancakes than we did eating. His poor pancakes were drenched by the time we got something decent! So extra.

On our way to the diner, we had passed an amazingly vibrant red tree. As silly as it sounds, I had never seen a tree that color in my life. We circled back to find it so we could take a photo of it. I had a fabulous red leather jacket on and I wanted to get a photo with it! When we arrived back at the tree, the owner of the house was outside and giving us looks for even stopping to take a photo of it so we decided not to have a personal photo shoot. He clearly had no idea what a special tree he had!

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We arrived at Storm King Art Center shortly after 1pm. Storm King was SO cool. Uyen referred to it as a “an Instagram millennial thirst-trap” because of how gorgeous the property was and how large and beautiful the sculptures were. It was true though, there were a lot of opportunities for photo ops. If I was still on Instagram (I deleted it a few months ago), I would have been all over it.

Y’all, THE. WIND. It was so, so windy. We braved a little bit of rain on and off when we first arrived but it was mostly sunny. It was just so. unbelievably. miserably. windy. My Houston, Texas, hot-yoga-loving, self was not cut out for that. Steven had on a sweater and Uyen’s jacket did not look THAT much warmer than mine so why was I teeth-chattering cold? The property was large and we did a lot of walking so that helped warm me up as time went on, though. Whew. Had it not been so windy, I probably would not have felt like I was in a walk-in freezer so I tried to escape the wind when I could.

We walked around for a few hours, soaked up the art and fresh air, and had mini photo shoots where appropriate. It was nice to be out of the city and somewhere so peaceful. There were muddy areas that we had to battle but overall it was just a beautiful, carefree afternoon full of laughs and jokes. I would find myself getting “in my head” about little things here and there but did my best to snap back to the present moment and enjoy where I was.

Our last statue was one that everyone loved to pose under. I made a comment about doing a headstand underneath it and was encouraged to try… and try I did. I struggled to get into and fell a few times. People were watching and I was feeling nervous with their unintended pressure! Plus, it was cold. I never fully got myself into position but Steven managed to grab a snap where it LOOKED like I did, even if my pale stomach was on display and I looked a mess. People had encouraged me to keep trying but after a few attempts, I had to throw in the towel and move on.

We left Storm King after a couple of hours and headed toward Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest winery. On our way, we passed a bridge with a gorgeous view. None of our phones could capture how breathtaking it really was. The picture on the right is CLEARLY edited to try to show its true beauty but even then, it was more magical in person.

The winery was nearby so it was a short drive to it. Uyen and I rinsed the mud off our boots in the bathroom and then we all went in to do a wine tasting. It was after 4pm so tours of the winery were no longer available but we really only wanted to be drinking wine so the doing just the wine tasting was plenty. The whole property was like a small town and very quaint. They were setting up for a wedding and I completely understood why someone would want to get married there. It was lovely (even though I have almost zero pictures of the place and only one of this one barn).

We went inside and unfortunately got stuck behind a large group of girls. I say girls because even though they were of age to be doing a wine tasting, they acted and seemed like children. They all looked and dressed the same, it was kind of funny. We hoped to avoid being in their group but did not get lucky and ended up at the same counter as them. We positioned ourselves as far from them as we could get, ha.

The guy running the wine tasting was great. He was knowledgeable and funny and we enjoyed his company. He clearly did not like the group of girls either – they talked while he talked and constantly asked him to repeat himself. Whether true or not, he told us he was pouring us and the rest of the group more than he was them. I appreciated the little token of gratitude. We asked questions and learned a lot about wines and the history of the winery. I remember nothing… ha. That is what happens when I do not take notes for my blog!

We had 15 wines to taste so each flight, we would each try to get one of the 3 options and then try each other’s. I have never been a fan of white wine and I do not think that has changed. I also tried Honey Meade for the first time – also not a fan. I did try a chocolate liquor though and that was absolutely amazing; significantly more delicious than I expected. I liked a lot of the reds they had to offer but I like a red, so that was expected! It was a fun time! The only ever wine tasting I had done was in Italy and I was not a wine drinker at that time so this experience was definitely different in that I was more open to trying everything.

We decided to go to another nearby winery, Palaia Winery. The vibe there was VERY different. We could hear a party going on as soon as we parked and opened the car doors. It was much more of a dive-bar-type and “cool” environment. We did their wine tasting and I am sorry to say that I really did not enjoy any of their wines. I loved the place, but the wines were all… not for me. Not my taste. I cannot speak for Steven or Uyen but I downed my glasses just to get rid of them, not because I enjoyed them. If we did not have such a long drive back to the city, we probably would have stayed there longer and joined the piano bar crowd on the patio but we decided to be responsible and start heading back to the city.

It was a looooooooooooong drive back to their apartment. We were all exhausted and traffic was a mess. We entertained ourselves though and made it back safely!

The plan was to go to dinner so Uyen made a reservation at a restaurant for around 9pm. Uyen and Steven left to go get a bottle of wine and during their short trip, I managed to fall asleep… oops. My head had been hurting all day so it was only a matter of time, really. When they got back, they suggested we order-in instead and I was 100% on board with that idea! We ordered some delicious Chinese food. They shared wine and I stuck to water – Steven and I were taking a Bikram Yoga class the next day and I knew I needed to start hydrating.

We ate and hung out for awhile. It had been a long day and we were all completely spent. We started to watch “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” on Netflix; Steven made it about 15 minutes in before he left to go to bed but Uyen and I finished the movie because if you have not seen the movie, it is fantastic and worth watching no matter how tired you are! Once it was over, we both headed to sleep. I was out instantly.

Sunday, December 4

It was a wonderfully slow morning. Steven had to get up to walk Topher and return the rental car but I slept in. My body was sore so in preparation for yoga that afternoon, I started stretching in bed… but I kept falling back asleep. Eventually, we all got going and decided to go to brunch. It was impossible to get to the place they originally picked because so many streets were blocked by the New York City Marathon! We changed plans but took a quick break outside (the weather was perfect!) to watch the runners at the mile 12 marker. So many flashbacks of my half marathon came rushing back… I watched them in awe, cheering them on at their almost halfway mark. It was unbelievable how many runners there were; they kept coming and coming and coming!

After awhile, it was time to eat. We went to Cherry Point for brunch since that was the place we were originally going to have dinner at the night before. I passed on the morning drinks, still preparing for yoga, but the food was amazing! My avocado toast… so bougie.

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We parted ways with Uyen and went to get Topher to take him to the dog park to enjoy the weather. Topher has SO much energy and definitely knew where we were going because he was very excited the entire walk. Once we arrived, he ran around like a mad-dog. Elliott is not a real dog because when I take him to dog parks, he sits next to me. Topher, however, was born for dog parks. The park was small and grass-less but it was full – there were plenty of dogs for Topher to play with and boy, did he try to play with them all. He would bring us gross tennis balls and just beg for us to throw them. I did not want to touch it so I kicked it like a soccer ball and he would take off, searching for it in the leaves. If it ever got mixed up with other tennis balls, he would look for the perfect one and bring it back. It was adorable. Topher is a real dog! I loved watching him play. We walked across the street to meet up with Steven’s friend who also had a dog so that they could meet and play. His dog was more like Elliott – reserved and unsure about the whole ‘dog park’ thing. Dog personalities are so fascinating.

After about an hour or so, Steven and I needed to go home to get ready for yoga. We dropped Topher off and packed our things and started the trek. My Bikram Bestie from teacher training, Lidia, teaches at a studio in Brooklyn but it was an hour from Steven’s apartment! The hour actually went by really quickly which was odd considering how excited and eager I was to see Lidia. I had not seen her since January when she visited me so I was ready to give her a hug and especially ready and excited to take her class for the first time!

Once we arrived in Bay Ridge, it felt like we were in a totally different area (besides the fact that we were, indeed, in a totally different area). It was still Brooklyn but felt like a different city! The vibe was just different in a way I cannot really explain. We walked a few blocks to Lidia’s studio and she greeted us excitedly at the door! We hugged and hugged and hugged some more. I introduced her to Steven (who, by the way, was taking his FIRST Bikram Yoga class!) and she showed us around the studio. He and I went to the basement to change and get ready for class then went back upstairs to set up our mats. She had told us where the ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ spots in the room were and Steven chose a cooler spot – I allowed it since it was his first class! Hehe. Lidia’s class was amazing. It was not what I expected at all from her but I loved it and she kicked our butts, just like Bikram taught us. She is such a good teacher and I could tell the students love her, how could they not? She was so compassionate, encouraging, and cute! I loved it. I loved getting to finally take her class and seeing her again!

Steven did great and survived, even enjoyed the class himself and that made me happy. I never know how someone will feel when I bring them to class and I always secretly hope they love it as much as I do so I was glad he had a good experience. We waited for the room to clear out after class and then of course, took a million photos.

Once everyone else left, Lidia joined in with us!

We cleaned up and then headed to dinner nearby.

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Lidia picked the place, Cebu Brooklyn, and it was delicious! The restaurant was massive and the vibe inside was really cool. Lidia said the place looks totally different during the day but at night with the lights dimmed, it was nice. We had a few rounds of drinks and did family-style dinner; ordered several things and split. It was great catching up with Lidia and talking yoga but unlike Steven, I am not very good at keeping everyone “in the loop” during conversations. I tried, though! I am sure he felt left out during our yoga moments but Steven is also good at actively participating so maybe it was not as bad for him as my head made it out to be. When yogis get together, it is tough to NOT discuss yoga!

Steven and I had a long commute so we said our goodbyes and started the journey back home. We were both exhausted but also sad that the weekend was coming to an end.

Monday, December 5

Monday was a travel day! Steven had to leave for work as I was getting up. I was out the door an hour later and headed back to the airport to go home. I was sad on my way to the airport because I missed Steven already! The weekend was packed full of fun but did not seem long enough; it never does, right?

I had time to waste at the airport so I got something to eat, chatted with my dad, and watched Netflix. Steven and I still texted all morning about how sad we both were and I sent him this photo: airport vibes.

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The flight home was uneventful. It is always bittersweet coming home. The Uber ride to my Dad’s house was long but I was happy to see Elliott and snuggle him!

I am so happy Steven suggested I take a visit up there. Not only was it long overdue, it was just good timing. Steven and I have been such good friends for years and as all friendships go, there are times of closeness and times of distance. We have never been distant but I have felt especially close with him in the weeks leading up to (and after, since I am writing this a month late). His support, friendship, understanding, and compassion during a difficult and trying time in my life has been more than I could ever want from a friend and I am truly grateful for him. I have plenty of friends and family that have shown similar support and love to me right now (and I am forever grateful) but Steven has a deep understanding in a way I do not think many others could completely relate, and I have relied heavily on him. I love that we have maintained such a beautiful friendship over the last 10 years and that we can travel and vacation together so well. I look forward to many, many more trips in our future!

The trip was needed and while I enjoyed it, there were random moments that were tough for me; little reminders here and there (the Wasco sign I saw walking to Enterprise on Saturday nearly took the wind out of me) that triggered the feelings of sadness, pain, and loneliness that I was trying to escape but I pushed on and tried to put those feelings behind me. I did not want Steven, Uyen, or Lidia to notice my little struggles. As I thought about writing this blog post back during the trip, it sounded so depressing even though I was having a good vacation. As I actually put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) now, I remember those feelings but feel less hindered and paralyzed by them and with the clouds lifted, recall the trip in a much happier, positive way and for that, I am thankful. I only want to remember the good.

Until next time,

Jillian

 

… to Michigan

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Michigan with Bobby and his family for their annual week-long vacation at their family lake house off of Lake Superior. When they lived in Illinois, it was a short drive over but they all live in Texas now so a few years ago, they rented an RV to travel there together in-style. We decided to do that again this year but at the last minute, the guy we were renting from had to cancel. With no time to find a new one, Bobby’s friend (who works at Enterprise) hooked us up with a large Expedition for the trip.

I had heard so many amazing things about Michigan and we had planned it for so long that I was really looking forward to going! It ended up being a wonderful week with many firsts (my “firsts” are highlighted in pink along the way).

PS – you can click on images to enlarge them.

 

Friday July 27, 2018 – Day 1

On Thursday night, Bobby and I made the 3-hour drive from Houston to his parents’ house. We knew we would have an early morning start on Friday and a long day in the car so I was glad we decided to get a jump-start the day before. On Friday morning, Bobby and his dad, Kevin, picked up our rental car while his mom, Cathy, and I got the house ready. When they got back, we packed up our extra large Ford Expedition with our bags, tents, dog supplies, and coolers/snacks. My suitcase was ridiculously large and incredibly embarrassing but being that I had never been to Michigan and had no idea what I was getting into (activities we were doing, hot and cold weather, etc.), I needed to be prepared for anything. I have gone on longer trips with smaller suitcases so I hated that I over-packed and hoped no one would judge me! Now that I have been, I will know better next time and be able to pack more appropriately (but as a side note, I wore most of the things I brought). Bobby had a cool Starbucks to-go cup that we thought we had lost weeks ago at his or my apartment but magically found Friday morning at his parents’ house… and then re-lost while loading the car. After we re-found the cup, we we started our cross-country drive. Start time: 9:37am.

The first leg of the drive was short: a quick 5 minute drive to the local Veterinarian’s office. We needed to pick up Brian and Spike’s, Bobby’s parents’ little papillon dogs who were making the drive with us, medicine in-case we needed to lightly sedate them. After all, it was going to be a 24+ hour drive. It was not ideal for the dogs or for us to drug them, but after only a few minutes we realized we had no choice. There was no way they were going to be able to handle a drive like that without a little “assistance.” It was already a tight enough space with us and our luggage, we did not need their excited and cute selves roaming around the car for 2 days.

We stopped for breakfast at Whataburger about an hour later and kept on with the drive. Bobby had never had a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit before! Game changer. The next 5 hours went by very fast. It was still technically a workday for Bobby so he worked to keep himself busy. I napped a little bit but we all mostly entertained ourselves and socialized the whole time. I somehow won/earned 6 hours of unlimited lives on Candy Crush so that helped. We made it to Bryant, Arkansas before we stopped for gas. Everyone got a bathroom break, including the dogs, and we made ourselves sandwiches for lunch. Brian and Spike had settled down quite a bit but still managed to shed so we made another stop at a nearby Target to get a handheld, cordless, pet vacuum to help clean up the fur. It made me thankful Elliott does not shed! We also looked for a handheld buzzer so we could play the Family Feud board game later in the week but we came up empty handed (we never actually played the game while we were there). Cathy treated us to some dark chocolate peanut butter cups and we were on the road again.

Kevin pointed out things along the drive that all helped the time go by. He pointed out various businesses and landmarks like a steel company, ammo company, Highlands Milk, the Arkansas River and gave us fun facts like how that particular stretch of road has the most trucks on it because it is the only way to get to Memphis and how Arkansas is a huge rice producer. It reminded me of something my mom would do! A little education along the way never hurt anyone.

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Arkansas River

We drove through Tennessee and stopped in Missouri at the Missouri Division of Tourism Hayti Welcome Center (e.g. a rest stop). The sun was starting to set a little so it was pretty nice outside. The dogs got another break but we were all starting to worry about little Spike. He is an older dog and we were worried the medicine might have been too much for him (spoiler alert: he was fine!). Cathy busted out the wine and she, Bobby, and I enjoyed a much-needed glass!

Bobby was finished working so we decided to watch a movie on his iPad: “Game Over, Man.” It was difficult to share headphones and be comfortable in the backseat the way we had it set up so that did not last very long. It did help pass a little bit of time though and it made us laugh… even if it was kind of a dumb movie.

We crossed the mighty Mississippi River shortly after and made it to Mt. Vernon, Illinois around 9:15pm for dinner. The weather had significantly cooled off so I was glad I did not pack my jacket up in the trunk with everything else and instead had it readily available. Little win. We went to the Steak and Shake in the area but when we walked in, the waitress told us that she had just sat 3 large parties and it would be awhile before we would get food, so we left. Part of me appreciated her giving us a warning but part of me was annoyed that she did that. She turned away business! That is not good company practice, IMO. It was late and there were not many options in the area and we did not want to wait until we hit the next town, so we settled for Hardee’s across the street. Womp womp. The service in there was odd and questionable and the food was mediocre at best. I had never had Hardee’s before and to be honest, I would not care if I never had it again. It was fine for the night’s goal but I think I can cross Hardee’s off my list of places to revisit.

Earlier in the drive, Bobby booked us hotel rooms in Effingham, Illinois via Hotwire. Effingham was an hour away from Mt. Vernon so we ate quickly and got on our way. I think we were all exhausted by that point. Kevin had driven the entire time so it was probably good for him to rest, too. We got to the Baymont motel only to be told that they booked us with 2 smoking, non-pet-friendly rooms (i.e. the exact opposite thing we needed). We left but wanted a refund so while Kevin re-fueled the car, Bobby got on the phone with Hotwire for a refund. That was a total nightmare. We were on hold for basically ever and when we finally got an agent… oh boy. That guy was something else but Bobby handled him and the situation so well, way better than I would have which is one of the many things I love about him. Long story short: he called the hotel and the receptionist there told him that there WERE rooms for us and because of that, Hotwire could not issue us a refund. We did not want to lose the money so we turned around and tried to check-in again. The whole ordeal from the time we arrived there the first time to the time we actually received hotel keys was just about an hour. That was the last thing we all needed after already being in the car for 13 hours! But, we got rooms and that was all we could ask for. While we were unloading the car, the receptionist ran back over to us and told there was someone in one of the rooms she gave us and swapped keys with us. Yikes! That could have been bad… walking into someone’s room in small-town Effingham? That is how Dateline stories start. I was glad to avoid that situation. I skipped the shower, regardless of how gross my skin and hair looked like by that point, and opted to go directly to sleep in the smallest double bed of all time. We were asleep probably just after midnight. Not the best hotel we have stayed in… but not the worst. Again, it got the job done.

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Total travel time: 14.5 hours

 

Saturday July 28, 2018 – Day 2

I felt like the second my eyes closed, my 5:45am alarm was already going off. We decided to leave at 6:30am so it was another early start for us. I took a much-needed shower (What is it about traveling that makes a person get so gross? How does sitting in the car, or on an airplane, or at a hospital doing nothing do that to a person?!) and re-packed. Bobby re-vacuumed up the pet hair and we all re-packed the car. We had to reorganize just a little bit because Bobby was our new driver which meant I got to be in the front seat. The front seat was not nearly as comfortable as the back seat but I think it ended up being easier with the dogs because both dogs wanted to be with Cathy and Kevin and with them sitting in the back, there was a lot less dog-roaming. It worked out! We stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and coffee and officially kicked off day 2.

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Bobby had everyone choose an album to listen to at some point and we all had to listen to it regardless of how anyone else felt about it. It was a risky game but I liked it. Cathy picked a pretty good one (I forget which one) and when it was my turn, I picked Jo Dee Messina’s “I’m Alright” album. I told them how that album was my first real-taste of country music (with the exception of my 5th grade teacher’s obsession with Clay Walker), how my aunt had bought it for me, and how when I was younger and had a CD player it was basically the only CD I would listen to when we went on family vacations. To this day, something about travelling makes me want to listen to this album! I was nervous about my pick but it was received well! Whew. Bobby picked his album and then we listened to Jim Gaffigan and a few other comedians. I had started to fall in and out of sleep at that point but it was tough to sleep in the front seat. Also, I had the big responsibility of holding up Illinois’ version of an EZ Tag in the window as we went through tolls.

We saw the Chicago skyline in the distance around 10am. When Bobby and I visited Chicago, he pointed me in the direction of the town he grew up in but I did not realize at the time just how close it was. We were now in Wadsworth, his hometown. Kevin made a comment about visiting their old house but quickly dismissed the idea. I was glad when Cathy suggested we go anyway because I wanted to see Bobby’s hometown. I had given him the grand tour of where I was raised (old house, my schools, places I went, etc.) and I had hoped one day to see his so I was happy when we exited the highway for the short detour. They told me all about the area, the wetlands, and The Shanty (a restaurant owned by a family they know that was on Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network). They pointed out different places they would go and I really enjoyed hearing about it all. Kevin kept saying, “we are just giving you stuff for your blog.” While that may be true, it made me feel included and welcomed, maybe even a little bit special, for them to give me a tour and take me there.

Cathy called their old neighbors to tell them we were in the area and see if they were home so we could visit. They were there so we made a pit-stop. The weather had warmed up so I changed from leggings into shorts and we all visited outside for a little bit. Their neighbors were very kind. It was very obvious to me that everyone was happy to see each other and how close their friendships were. Bobby’s old childhood home was literally next-door so they told me all about the house and things they added and whatnot. The neighborhood was so different from the neighborhood I grew up in: no fences and more spaced out. It was beautiful. Bobby told me about just being able to walk through the trees in the backyard and be at his best friend’s house and pointed out where he and his friends would adventure to. Cathy shared stories and memories about the two families growing up together. I loved it all. It seemed like a really nice place to grow up and I was grateful they shared it with me. I also kept thinking to myself how much my brother-in-law would love the area and raise a family there (but he is not allowed to move my sister and nieces that far away from me so… irrelevant).

In an effort to get to our final destination while it was still light out (so we could set up tents easily), we said our goodbyes and got on the road again. About 2 seconds later, we were in Wisconsin. I had no idea we were so close to the border! Kevin noted the Bristol Renaissance Faire which sounded pretty comparable to the Texas Renaissance Festival I had been to before. A quick Google comparison shows Wisconsin’s at 4.8 stars and Texas’ at 4.6 stars (with a difference of only 20 reviews between the 2) so Wisconsin might us beat in that market!

We stopped at Woodman’s, a local/popular/apparently cheap liquor store to stock up for the week. Our car was already at max capacity but when you find 2 cases of water for $5.75 (70 bottles total), you buy it and find room! We bought more than enough alcohol and kept on our way. Waze proved to be the real MVP of the trip because as we approached traffic, it re-routed us to side roads and we probably saved ourselves from sitting in 30-60 minutes of nearly stopped, bumper to bumper, traffic.

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At about that time, my sister had posted a picture of everyone setting up for my niece’s 5th birthday party. I had debated a LOT before leaving for Michigan about missing her party but made the tough decision to skip it this year, the first one I had missed. I was confident in my decision but seeing those pictures made me sad; could not help it. I decided to video chat them before the party started. Bailey asked me if I was coming and if I was going to see her on her real birthday instead and it literally ripped my heart right out of me! The connection was bad so it was a short conversation but she seemed SO excited and happy and that made me happy too, even if I cried behind my sunglasses after we hung up. Shh. Luckily, Cathy was on the phone with Bobby’s aunt, Nancy, discussing the traffic we had just bypassed and how to get around it (Nancy and her family were driving up in an RV and scheduled to arrive shortly after us). I was thankful everyone was distracted so I could gather my emotions and kept on with the day.

It was a little after 1pm as we approached Milwaukee so we voted to stop at the Portillo’s in Greenfield (just South of the city) for lunch. Bobby took me to the Portillo’s in Chicago during our trip and at the time, I got their popular Italian Beef sandwich. It was my first Italian Beef and it was delicious! He had told me they also had amazing hot dogs but suggested I wait until our baseball game that night to try one so I missed out on the Portillo’s version. Who knew I would get a chance to try one this time around? We all got Chicago-style hot dogs and it did not disappoint at all. My hot dogs always either had ketchup/mustard or chili/cheese so one with “the works” was very different but very tasty. Their french fries were delicious and Cathy even ordered a piece of their famous chocolate cake for us to all share. Yum! (PS – we always did drive-thru on our stops or someone waited in the car, we never left the dogs alone in the car!)

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We continued on. It was a lot of driving but still seemed to be going by fairly quickly. We made it to Sheboygan, WI and passed the “World’s Tallest Symbol of Freedom” (a 400ft flagpole). Site note: I just read that article and it is only the 6th tallest flagpole in the world but is the tallest in America. We made it to Green Bay around 3:30pm and saw Lambeau Field from a distance. Bobby and his family are all Packers fans but I still like them anyway! I started to sleep on and off again but do not think I managed to get any productive rest out of it. Somewhere along the way, Bobby suggested we play the ABC game (of which we did not know the official rules so we made our own: find a word that begins with that letter of the alphabet). Cathy was making me laugh because she said we had an unfair disadvantage by being in the front seat! Not wrong, but she did beat us on a few letters. It was a scenic drive through some cute small times (shout out to Crystal Falls for being adorable). We made it all the way to the letter X before we gave up. We never found an X. However, it did kill a LOT of time and before I knew it, we were in L’Anse, Michigan at 6pm. We made a quick stop (and our last one before arriving at the lake house) at the grocery store. Joan, Bobby’s grandma/Cathy’s mom, wanted us to grab what she had been told was “the best frozen pizza”: Lozza Mozza. We picked up a few and kept on.

We were in the home stretch now and everyone was pointing out everything to me! They took me the scenic route and we saw the sun start to go down off of Keweenaw Bay off of Lake Superior. We passed the local bar they go to and that I had heard a lot about: The Finns. I was a little overwhelmed because they were all so familiar with everything and while I absolutely wanted to hear it all and see it all, it was difficult to keep up! They all have SO many fond memories and experiences in the area and it is clearly a place they understandably hold dearly in their hearts! (I loved the place too, I get it.) Finally, at 8pm local time (our time zone changed to be an hour ahead) we arrived in Skanee, Michigan in the UP (upper peninsula)! Bobby put the car in neutral and coasted down the road and into the driveway of the celebrated lake house on Huron Bay. My phone had officially lost signal somewhere between the grocery store and the lake house so I put it in airplane mode for 7 days and only used my phone as a camera; I was committed to true off-grid vacation!

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Joan and Hal (Bobby’s grandparents), were there anxiously ready to greet us. We said our hellos and let the dogs start to explore as we unloaded the car. They gave me a tour of the house and property and it was all so beautiful. The weather, the view of the water, everything. The amazing sunset definitely did not hurt my opinion! Kevin asked me if it was what I expected but honestly, I had no expectations. I had only heard so much about the memories there instead of descriptions of the property so I was going in blind. Bobby had told me about the stairs to the dock once before so that was the only part I was slightly familiar with but either way, I did not know what to expect. Bobby took me down to the dock and we soaked up the view for a little bit but we needed to get our tent setup before dark so we headed back up.

I forgot to grab the extra tarp (to put under the tent) out of his car when we initially loaded up the Expedition on Friday… and by “forgot” I mean, I did not know it was there to take… so we searched for a spare tarp on the pontoon and started on the tent. We (he) bought the tent on Amazon the week before: an “instant” one. It did not disappoint! We had that thing popped up in 10 seconds. It barely fit our queen-size air mattress but that was all the room we needed. We were not going to be spending hours in the tent so it only needed enough room for sleeping, which it had. Bobby picked a great spot for it: in between an area of trees, facing the lake.

Cathy had bought us all matching “happy camper” shirts from her last Colorado trip to wear when we initially were supposed to be in the RV so we changed into those and got a few pictures. Joan snapped a group photo for us. They were very comfy shirts and I love a good matching outfit! It was sweet of Cathy to think of us all and get those.

We poured a drink from the bar on the screened-in patio and then Bobby suggested to head to the park for the last bit of the sunset. He checked the bike tires in the garage to see if we could ride them but they were flat so we drove over instead. The park was really close so it was a short drive, I do not think either of us wanted to be in a car for a long time anymore! We sat on a bench right on the water watching the sun and enjoying a drink. It was so calm and peaceful. The water was still and looked like glass. That was definitely worth the 24+ hour drive.

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There was a raspberry bush we picked teenie tiny raspberries off of and ate. They were small but delicious. He also wanted me to see how cold the water was so I pumped the well and it. was. cold. Deceivingly cold!

When we got back, we all sat on the patio and drank more and ate dinner. Joan made Italian Beef and it was so good. I had been craving it since we talked about it at Portillo’s so I was happy. We snacked unnecessarily (a theme of the week), shared stories, and played games. Cathy was really good about keeping me caught up and included: she would explain something or tell me who someone was off to the side so I could follow along. Becky (Bobby’s friend) did the same thing for me when we visited Chicago. It must be a woman thing to recognize another woman is lost and want to help include them! Either way, I appreciated it. We tried playing Triominos, a game I had played a few times as a kid but never really understood. It was horrible and we hated it. Next. We switched to poker and that was when I learned all about “pokes.” Each person had a poke: a jar with money in it only to be used to play poker. They have all had their jars forever and have their names on them and silly things like “keep out” and “don’t touch” graffitied on them. Some people have a lot of money (mostly coins, some bills) and some have very little. We needed to get me a poke so I could play and funnily enough, there was a jar for one of Bobby’s ex-girlfriends. Mine now! I stole her money and wrote my name on the lid over her’s and after a few jokes about how the next girl will have a hard time covering my name yada yada yada, we played some Texas Hold ‘Em. I won a few rounds and managed to take quite a bit of money from Bobby, too! It was a fun first evening.

Bobby’s aunt, uncle, and cousins were scheduled to arrive that night but it was after 1am and we could not wait up any longer: we were exhausted. We got ready for bed and climbed into our cozy tent. It had cooled off a lot outside so the tent was actually very comfortable! I fell asleep quickly. The only downside of sleeping in a tent: when you have to take a late-night bathroom break, you have to layer up/put shoes on and run inside (unlike guys who can just step outside the tent and go for it – boys, ammiright?).

Day 2 Travel Time: 13 hours

Total Travel Time: 1 day, 10 hours, 30 minutes

 

Sunday July 29, 2018 – Day 3

Waking up in the tent was magical. Bobby got up around 9am but I hung back and slept another hour; I was so comfortable, I did not want to move yet. The air mattress had deflated a little bit which was not noticeable when we were both on it but once he got up and I sank to the ground, we knew we had a problem.

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When I finally got moving, I joined the crew inside. The rest of the group had made it to the lake house around 3am so they were all still sleeping. The lake house had 2 bathrooms but only 1 shower so in an effort to keep the bathrooms open, I showered “across the street” (i.e. 10 feet away) at the “neighbor’s house” (i.e. Bobby’s grandpa’s aunt’s house on the same piece of property). My conditioner had exploded somehow so I cleaned up that mess before finally washing off the long drive from the day before. I felt so much better! When I returned to the main house and opened the patio door, EVERYONE was sitting there and turned to look at me. I mean, everyone. It was so awkward and so intimidating. It was my first time meeting Bobby’s cousin Jake and his girlfriend Kellye so I said hello to everyone and awkwardly introduced myself to them and then made my way into the main part of the house to finish getting ready, something I now wished I had done at the neighboring house. Oy. I joined them when I was finished and we all hung out for a few hours while people took turns getting ready. The best line from the morning was from Cathy when she found out Bobby and I had a double sleeping bag: “y’all are gross” (said in a loving way, of course).

Sunday was also my niece’s actual 5th birthday so I called her to wish her a happy birthday. The lake house has a land line but you have to use a phone card which was kind of retro for it being 2018. My sister did not answer the first time, probably because it was a strange number, but I called again and got a hold of them. Bailey told me about her party and what her birthday plans were. I did not want to use too many minutes on the phone card so it was a short call but I am glad I got to make it. #auntlyfe

After everyone was ready, Nancy led their first ever family meeting. She wanted to go over general stuff: how you cannot have more than one kitchen appliance on at the same time or the power will go out, shower schedules, activities people want to do and how to accomplish them all, meals, etc. She wanted to get everyone on the same page so we could all make the most of our week. Hal took out hearing aids and eventually left, making us all laugh. Everyone was making jokes and having a good time with it (I jokingly suggested a talking stick and we ended up throwing around an old, circular, dust-filled pillow across the room to be able to speak, making us laugh more) but despite our jokes, I think everyone was glad she organized it because it was actually very helpful, especially for a new person to the group like myself. We also decided on our first group activity of the week: Slate River Falls.

Bobby, Cathy, Scott (Bobby’s uncle), Jake, Kellye, Emily (Bobby’s younger cousin), and I all left for Slate River Falls at 2pm (everyone else went to run errands and get groceries, which was greatly appreciated!). It was a short drive to the area and a small hike over to the falls: a slow incline, a hike along the ridge, and a very steep decline to the river/falls. It was a fairly easy hike/climb overall and we all made it in one piece. This was Bobby’s favorite place and somewhere he had frequently talked about before the trip. Also, one of my favorite pictures of him was taken at Slate River Falls so I was excited to see it. It did not disappoint! The whole area was so beautiful and peaceful. There were a few other people swimming in the area in front of the falls so we waited by the river in the rocks to take photos of the falls. Emily swam in the water which was brave because not only was it cold, but Cathy had mentioned leeches once! Yikes! Bobby taught me how to skip rocks and while I was not very good (I mean, I was horrible), I did have a few good skips. The other group eventually left and we all hung out there taking photos, relaxing in the area, and skipping rocks. It was a great time and I could see why Bobby loved it so much. We left around 4pm. That steep decline to get down to the falls was much more difficult to climb up than down but again, we all made it. Jake dropped some trash so he slid back down to get it, cutting his arm along the way, but he made it too.