… to Santa Fe, New Mexico

We finally were able to take a much needed vacation! Steven and I started planning months prior when nothing was going on and we were excited to go. As the trip neared, we both suddenly had a lot going on: he was in the final stages of a big project and I had a lot going on with me slowly moving in with Mike and getting rooms set up. Despite the chaos, we were still excited to get away!

Our group changed a few times but we landed with him, me, and our friend Aaron. The 3 of us get along like *chef’s kiss* so it was a perfect group!

Wednesday, May 4

I had an early flight and was flustered while finishing up final packing and getting ready. I am always flustered when I leave for a trip. My carry-on suitcase did not have enough room but I was determined to make it work because I am incredibly stubborn. Mike stayed back for work and to watch Elliott; we said our goodbyes and I was off!

Morning traffic was tolerable and unlike my last 2 recent trips to the airport, airport traffic was not bad. I breezed through security and arrived at the gate at my exact intended time. Airport queen. The mask mandate was over despite the pandemic still going, but I chose not to wear a mask. It was weird.

Aaron and I were on the same flight so we met for drinks at one of the bars. We had a gate change and 2 delays… and more drinks. Aaron and I caught up on our lives. He raved about Mike! Hard not to.

We boarded our comically small plane and my bag got gate-checked. Guess I could have brought a larger bag and checked it like Aaron did but I know I would have been worried about it getting lost with the gate change. Gate-checks are easy. If it were not for my large coat to keep me warm in the cold New Mexico weather, my bag would have been the perfect size.

Aaron and I were coincidentally in the same row. It felt like low odds for that to happen but after seeing how small the plane was, I recognized the odds were fairly high. My seat-mate was happy to swap seats with him so he and I could socialize. However, I dozed off well before take off. I blame the drinks. We played Monopoly Deal when I woke up which killed a good chunk of time. Aaron had never played before but picked it up quickly!

Our flight landed about 30 minutes early. The Albuquerque airport was something else. They really leaned in to the southwest theme and I was here for it. We got Aaron’s bag from baggage claim and waited for Steven to arrive from Austin shortly after. We all exchanged hugs and giggles, picked up Steven’s bag, and headed to pick up our rental car, nay, large red truck.

Aaron drove us to Santa Fe, our final destination. It took about an hour and we had fun catching up in the car and taking in the beautiful sites. We stopped at the grocery store near our Airbnb to pick up groceries and lunch for our hike the next day. I had not eaten at all yet minus the airplane pretzels and a kombucha so I was starved and beyond ready for a snack.

The Airbnb was super, super cute. We all settled, unpacked, and finally ate a light snack since we had a big dinner planned. We poured some wine and went on a walk around the area. Was it cold? Yes. Was it hot? Also yes. Did I wear socks with my sandals? Absolutely. Mostly, it was windy and sunny with the most clear blue sky any of us had ever seen. I kept reminding everyone to drink water; we might not have been sweating but I had no doubt we would be dehydrated in the dry heat.

I video chatted with Mike and gave him a tour of the Airbnb. The weather was nice when just sitting on the patio so we relaxed there for a bit. We decided to play some games. Have you ever played “The Mind”? My siblings and I played it a few times and never beat it. Mike and I spent several hours playing it when we first started dating and we went CRAZY when we won. The 3 of us played at the Airbnb and lost our minds just as much when we beat level 2! Ha. We eventually made it to level 6 before giving up. All of us are mostly introverts so we all decided to relax separately before dinner to re-charge. Love that for us.

We left for the evening around 5:30pm to go to downtown Santa Fe for drinks. It was an absolute nightmare finding parking downtown but we figured it out. We passed the oldest house in Santa Fe and the oldest church in the United States which were kind of neat.

Our first official stop was at the Dragon Room bar. The bar tender was *rude* but the drinks were delicious and the bar was cute. We made ourselves comfortable in an empty area in the back and had a full-blown photoshoot. The lighting was great, we did not have a choice.

Steven had made dinner reservations at Arroyo Vino weeks ago so we headed there next. The drive was beautiful and we got to enjoy the sunset from the mountains. Our waiter was incredible and guided us through the wines and menu with ease. The food was outstanding and absolutely worth the hype. It was really nice to get to relax, enjoy a good meal with good people, and laugh all evening!

We listened to 90s and 2000s music on the half hour drive home in the dark. Y’all, New Mexico does not believe in streetlights. It was pitch black out, but you could see *every* star in the sky. It felt like being in a planetarium. It was surreal. We know pictures would not do it justice but we tried anyway…

We all showered and cleaned up. It was only 10:30pm in NM (but 11:30pm at home) but we were all tuckered out from a day of traveling and adventure. Steven helped me chase a very loud fly out of my room and then I caught up on all of my rights being taken away (re: the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade) before falling asleep.

Thursday, May 5

I slept like a queen and felt like a new person! I was up by 7:30am and heard someone stirring in the living room. I dozed on and off for a little while longer and messed around on my phone. There was no plan for the morning so I stretched in bed for at least an hour and a half. It was 32 degrees outside and I had no desire to get out from under the covers. It felt nice to stretch. Part of me was getting restless not having a plan so it was a good opportunity for me to practice patience and reframing. Instead of being anxious about the day, I worked on reframing it to be grateful for the opportunity to stretch, have quiet time, and charge up/fill my energy bank for the day. Sometimes, I fell asleep in a stretching posture. Namaste.

I heard the guys talking about their outfits for the day so I got up and got ready, too. I definitely did not feel like I packed the necessary clothes because of my suitcase limitations but whatever. Steven and Aaron were in the living room re-planning the day. We found out about the wildfires a few days before we left for the trip. Turned out, there were a lot of road closures and park closures around what they had wanted to do for the day (hiking and hot springs) so they were coming up with a new plan (hiking and hot springs… somewhere else).

Since we were hiking, they asked me to lead them through some stretches. I never say no to stretching! We finished getting ready, I borrowed Aaron’s A&M hat, we packed up the car, and got on our way to Three Gun Springs trail and hot spring.

The drive was long but beautiful. We lost service a lot; clearly, we were in the middle of no where. The New Mexico landscape was breathtaking and I never got tired of it.

We arrived around noon. I had to pee but there was no where to go… for me. Men have it so easy! The weather could not have been more beautiful!

We hiked for about an hour and a half. At some points, they were tens of yards in front of me. My little legs were struggling to keep up but they were both on a mission to find the hot spring. It was so uncomfortable wearing my swim suit under my hiking clothes so I was struggling a little bit (the top’s tie around my neck was straining!). Whether it was the pace, the altitude, something else, or a combo of everything, I struggled to breathe sometimes and had to stop for water a few times. Hydration, baby! It really felt like we were running up the mountain and I wish we could have gone slower to enjoy it more. Also, who knew we were hiking straight up a mountain instead of a leisurely afternoon hike?! It was nice but it was tough.

We snapped photos along the way. I hate how every picture of me turns out so I don’t know why I bother. I never know what to do with my body or how to pose… plus I look masculine. S’pose that is the consequence for wearing clothes for form, function, and comfort instead of cute. Sigh.

Steven kept saying we were almost there and I 100% snapped at him to stop saying that because we were *never* there. Was I overreacting? Yes, probably. Did I have to pee still and was I getting hangry? Yes. Did they have any idea of where we were going? No. It was a bad combo. I know they were both looking forward to the hot spring more than anything so I did my best to suck it up; the hike was nice, I was fine. There was an older woman hiking down the mountain and we stopped her to ask directions. She said the hot spring was really difficult to get to, off the trail, had no water, and was not worth it even if we did get to it. You could see the life drain from Steven and Aaron; I felt awful for them.

We turned around and found a shaded spot to eat our packed sandwiches and chips. We had some White Claw with us but the idea of drinking anything but water sounded horrible. The next nearest hot spring was in Santa Fe National Park (where we originally planned) but it was an hour and a half away at best. Steven still wanted to go so I hopped on board. He was obviously disappointed but said he mostly felt bad for us since despite me not mentioning it once, he knew I had to pee, and despite Aaron never saying anything, knew Aaron wanted to go in the water. It was sweet of him to worry about us but we were fine!

It took us about 35 minutes to hike down the mountain and get back to the car. Not surprisingly, it was much easier for me to keep up! Everyone had a little more pep in their step on the way back. Steven decided we should do the hot springs another day (smart). Secretly, I had wished he would choose that but I am glad he realized it on his own. My desire to be in water was fairly low.

Aaron and I climbed up a very large rock. Climbing up was easy, Climbing down was a little trickier. We supported each others’ feet like rock climbing nodes and that helped make it easier. So clever.

On our way home, we decided we earned a pitstop at Rumor Brewing Co., a nearby brewery. It was nice to sit, enjoy the weather, and have a drink.

Weed is legal in New Mexico and there was a smoke shop across the way. Steven could not go in because he forgot his license so I was sent in solo while Aaron got the car. Uhhh… I am the *worst* person to send into a smoke shop alone!! I had to wing it. Luckily, the sales guy was friendly and we had a great time picking out some stuff and chatting about yoga (he brought it up, I swear!). I was in there so long that Steven and Aaron got worried about me! Ha.

We listened to our queen, Taylor Swift, the whole ride home and it helped speed the drive up. It was Cinco de Mayo and we wanted margaritas so we stopped at the grocery story. No surprise, they were out of regular limes! They had mini limes so we took a chance. They let me drive the massive red truck the 2 miles to the Airbnb, too. It was fun!

Steven collected firewood and the lighting was perfect for a photoshoot. I made him stop and pose, not that he minded!

At home in Houston, Mike and I make a delicious pineapple salsa from one of our favorite cookbooks, Defined Dish. It seemed appropriate for our Cinco de Mayo celebration so we made fish tacos with pineapple salsa, chips and guacamole, and margaritas with mini limes. We ate, drank, and played Phase 10 all night. My pineapple salsa was not totally correct but it was still good! Steven made our second round of drinks: frozen pineapple jalapeno margaritas. They were insanely good. Color me impressed.

Mike and I briefly video chatted before I went to bed around 9pm. I needed time to wind down. I played on my phone for a little bit and once again caught up on all the latest political bullshit before going to bed.

Friday, May 6

I woke up at 7am with the plan to be out the door by 8am. The original event schedule only accounted for 1 day of hiking so I was not prepared with more clothing for another day of it and ended up wearing smelly clothes from the day before. That carry-on bag was really cramping my non-style.

They guys were over driving so I took the wheel this time and drove the almost 2 hours to the Jemez Hot Springs. It was a quiet drive; I was feeling anxious and Steven was jumpy. The scenery was similar to what we had seen so far but as we got closer to the hot spring, we saw amazing mountains and red cliffs. They were so beautiful. It was a winding road with a very slow speed limit so I was able to soak in the new sites.

We arrived at the man-made Jemez Hot Springs around 10am. Basically, it was a bunch of share warm and hot baths. The place was really nice and the guys were excited to get in the water. I, on the other hand, hate being in a bathing suit these days so was a little less excited. My nieces got me a “Best Gigi” bracelet for my birthday and it would NOT come off. I was worried about it in the water but *spoiler alert* it was fine. Whew. The weather was perfect, again, and it was nice to bask in the sun. It was 67 degrees but never felt like it. We spent about an hour hopping between the different baths. Luckily, we got there early so it was fairly open but there were a lot more people as we left. Glad we got there when we did!

Our plan was to go check out a few of the natural hot springs nearby. Unfortunately, every single one of them were in the national park which was 100% blocked off due to the fires. We had no phone signal and had trouble searing for alternatives. Steven had me pull over at a small country store so he could go in and ask for directions and help, the good ‘ol fashion way. They confirmed everything was closed and we were, in fact, SOL.

Since the hot springs were out, we needed to come up with alternative plans for the afternoon so we drove back to a beautiful dam we passed earlier, pulled over, and decided to explore. It was roped off but a single *rope* was not going to hold us back. It was so lovely! We snapped some photos and soon, others joined us. I guess one group breaking the “rules” gave permission to others to do the same? Our bad.

I stood up too quickly trying to crawl into a cave and busted my head open. The sound was SO loud and it hurt SO bad. We were all surprised I did not crack my skull open; that is how loud it was. It hurt more than I wanted to admit but, spoiler, I was fine. It also was way worse in person than it looked in the photos!

Steven wanted to go into the waterfall despite Aaron and I feeling very nervous about it! I made sure to grab his phone and the car keys just in case he fell in the water. He did great though and safely made his way back to us.

We asked a stranger to snap a group photo; it turned out to be our favorite photo of the trip! Check out our matching sandals! Don’t mind my askew sunglasses… they suffered their own damage when I hit my head.

A driver in a passing car slowed down to wag her finger at us (probably for going past the rope) as we made our way back to the car. Sass. We ended up passing cop cars on our way back to town so maybe someone told on everyone and we left just in time.

Our next stop was the Ancient Ruins of Gisewatowa Pueblo, a historical site we passed earlier. My head was throbbing and bleeding but I persisted. The site was lovely and quiet but we did not stay long. We were starving.

We sat outside for lunch at Los Ojos to continue to enjoy the perfect weather. The place was busy and as with everywhere these days, short staffed. It took forever for our drinks but was worth it! The drinks and burgers were either really delicious or we were just very hungry. My head was definitely getting worse, too.

I made the long drive home. We were all pooped. We got back around 3:45pm and did not have a lot of time to get ready and rest before going downtown for the evening for a wine tasting at Gruet Santa Fe. I talked to Mike a little bit and took ibuprofen before we headed out. Parking downtown was a complete nightmare and it made me really frustrated and flustered. It was my day to pay for things and re-downloading the parking app, resetting a password, etc. was a pain and made me even more frustrated. Not a great start but I kind of blamed my head hurting.

There was no plan before the wine tasting so we walked around, popping into different stores and shops. Aaron bought a hat and we saw a $20,000 couch. The house was great; the couch was yikes! The downtown square was really cute.

We tried to find a bar to hang out in to pass the time but had no luck so we headed to the wine tasting early. Luckily, they were able to seat us! The weather was still great and we had some pretty incredible lighting on the patio so of course we had a photoshoot. We enjoyed the wine quite a bit. None of us were hungry but it felt weird to not have snacks so we ordered some munchies.

The wine was really tasty but eventually I started to feel a little out of it (not in a “I drank too much way”) and we were all drained so we agreed to call it a night and head home. I made, what I thought, was a silly joke to Steven while walking back to the car and he snapped at me pretty hard. It was a very, very awkward and silent drive home. The sunset was absolutely insane. It was a perfect red sun with (sadly) smoke from the wild fire in front of it and a clear sky otherwise. I raced home to try and catch it but missed it by seconds, arriving back just after 8pm.

After the awkward exchange earlier, I did not feel like doing anything else and went to my room. I was convinced I was going to die in my sleep from the head injury so what did it matter anyway? All of the rooms had doors to the patio and since the Airbnb was so warm, I had cracked mine open. Unfortunately, that led to me hearing parts of Steven and Aaron’s conversation outside and it only made things more awkward. I texted with Mike and eventually fell asleep. Rough evening.

I learned later that the guys stayed up pretty late!

Saturday, May 7

I had zero desire to come out of my room in the morning. I was upset about the evening before and felt at my limit. Steven came to talk to me though: he interpreted my joke differently than I intended and felt personally attacked on a sensitive topic. He suspected something else was going on with me, too, and I told him that the lack of structure and plans were taking a toll on me. We talked and we were okay. Best friends are best friends for a reason!

We were out the door by 10:15am for our art-packed day, starting off with the Georgia O’Keefe Museum downtown. It was ticket-only for timed entries and there were no tickets for right that moment but thankfully we were able to get tickets for early afternoon. We walked to an early lunch at Cafe Pasquals since we were all hungry, anyway! The place was packed which we assumed meant it would be delicious. We put ourselves on the waitlist and walked around. I bought a keychain and Steven bought some local art. The wait was short and before we knew it, we were seated in the restaurant.

Lunch was incredible. Steven and Aaron’s meals were both better than mine but everything was great. Aaron and I split a dessert that had a super fluffy, light, cinnamon whipped cream to die for. I can still taste it. Mmmm.

The Georiga O’Keefe Museum was very interesting. I did not know much about her and I have a bad (or good?) habit of reading every single placard at museums so I learned quite a bit. It was a small museum so it did not take long to get through.

Our next stop was Canyon Road, a road outside of downtown filled with art galleries. Again, it took us forever to park but we found a spot. The extra walking is not bad when the weather is nice like it was. We popped in and out of different galleries. Some of the art was really incredible and impressive… some of it was… interesting. There was a large wall-size painting for $225k. Can you imagine dropping that kind of money on a casual, Saturday stroll? Also, where the heck are people putting these things?! It was kind of insane.

It all looked the same after awhile so we stopped at Ahmyo Wine Garden for a break. The place was a little busy but the atmosphere was nice. The bachelorette party ruined the good vibes from the live musician so after a glass of wine, we left. We all agreed it was time to go home.

Aaron and I both, by different parties, told to check out Meow Wolf during the trip. Saturday was our “art day” but it seemed like we were all over it for the day. It would have been nice to power through and go but none of us had the energy. We went grocery shopping at a random local store for local chiles for our second homemade dinner before finally getting home.

We made drinks, played Scrabble (I kicked their butts), watched Disney movies and had a low key evening. Steven made enchiladas – they came out AMAZING. He crushed it. We were all very, very impressed and tried not to eat *all* of them. Yikes.

For not doing a whole lot, we were wiped and called it an early night.

Sunday, May 8

I woke up, got ready to head home, and walked out into the main area into a clean kitchen! Aaron cleaned everything up from the night before on his own; beat us all to it. We definitely should have soaked the enchilada dishes. I was super, super grateful. We all cleaned up the rest of the place and made sure we checked off all of our Airbnb responsibilities. Our flights home were around the same so we loaded up the truck and made our way to the airport. We left earlier than we needed to, but why lounge around doing nothing when we were ready to go?

We had some time to kill at the airport so we shared breakfast, had a few drinks, shared photos, and reminisced about the trip. Aaron and I were on the same flights, in different rows this time, so we said goodbye to Steven; his flight was an hour later.

The plane on the way home had in-seat entertainment so I watched a movie and before I knew it, we were back in Houston. Aaron and I said our goodbyes and I headed to my car. Damn, that Houston heat!

I was happy to get home to Mike and Elliott. It was a short reunion because shortly after getting home, we headed out for Mother’s Day dinner at Zanti. Yum!

Santa Fe was so beautiful and it was nice to get away for a few days and spend time with such wonderful, fun people!

Until next time,

Jillian

PS – I officially moved into Mike’s house the next day! 🙂

… to Dayton, Ohio

I grew up playing volleyball and joined a sand volleyball league in 2015 where I quickly met my awesome friends Todd and Brian (and over time, their significant others, Rachel and Melissa, respectively). The 3 of us played together every Sunday for years until Brian, an Ohio native, moved back to Ohio in 2020 with his wife and kids. Brian always talked about an annual “mud volleyball” tournament Dayton throws and because we missed our friends so much, Todd, Rachel, and I finally made the trip up North. The tournament was a BLAST but I also enjoyed the 5 of us spending time together like old times. I sobbed like a baby when they moved (to be fair, we all did) so of course I have to jump on any opportunity to all be together again!

Thursday, July 15

Per usual, I barely slept the night before traveling. I need to stop booking early flights because I get paralyzed with fear that I will sleep past an alarm and miss it. Per my already-scratched FitBit, I slept 2 hours and 40 minutes. Yikes. I was up and out the door by 4:45am with a sinking feeling that I was forgetting something (narrator: she did not forget anything). My flight was out of Terminal E, one I was not as familiar with but in IAH’s defense, all the terminals have undergone tremendous construction and I am not as familiar with any of them anymore. The federal mask mandate was still in effect, obviously, but I probably would have worn one anyway given the Delta variant. People still cannot wear their mask over their nose though which means at this point, they are intentionally doing that and therefore are crummy people. Namaste. I had a layover in Chicago and I get anxious about losing my bag if I have to change planes so I traveled with a carry-on this time. Security was a breeze because I am a pro and it still amazes me that other people cannot get through without issue, but I digress. I grabbed breakfast and for once, did not have to walk 100 miles to my gate. We boarded on time on an incredibly nice, normal size plane. The seats were so nice and everything looked super clean, new, modern, and sleek. The seat backs had innovative tablet and phone holders so you could stream from your devices easily. Glad to see planes catching up with the needs of the people!

We had a slight maintenance delay taking off because an overhead bin would not close and then we were off. The safety demo guy was way into his job. I always make it a point to watch them because it it a crummy feeling when you are doing your job and no one is paying attention. Did you know they have “water activated lights” on life vests now? Is this new? Am I old?

My goal was to nap without snoring and disrupting everyone and their mom but I gave up fairly quickly. Sleeping was not in the cards for me. I still did not have wireless headphones (but have since bought a pair) which meant I could not charge my phone AND have headphones in but luckily my phone battery survived the journey and I was able to watch the majority of Garden State. I had been listening to a podcast with Zach Braff and the movies comes up ALL the time and what better time to focus on something than on a plane?

I briefly considered ordering an adult beverage to knock me out but decided on a regular Coke instead (gross) specifically for the caffeine. My bladder felt like it was going to burst as we approached Chicago. It was an incredibly turbulent flight and the pilot decided to take the scenic route over Lake Michigan and back around, not triggering my anxiety or anything. How kind of him to fly over water for funsies (I am sure there was an actual purpose). I hate flying over water but I supposed better to do that when it is a bumpy ride than fly over land… higher chance of surviving? What are the stats on that?

The annoying kid behind me who started the flight by kicking my seat a million times turned into a cute little kid once he saw the Chicago skyline and landmarks. He took a bunch of pictures and pointed out the buildings to his family. It was precious. I felt bad my big ‘ol noggin’ was blocking the window for the others in my row to see out. They were a super sweet older couple who I had chatted with a little bit. I loved the way they interacted both physically and verbally. Goals.

I had a little less than an hour layover in Chicago so I took a bathroom break, strolled over to my new gate, and charged my phone. Again, I could not charge AND listen to my headphones so I read Twitter, texted, and stretched to pass the time. There was a brief flicker of PTSD navigating the Chicago airport but I managed. I am a strong, badass woman but I am also a sensitive little emotional, delicate butterfly sometimes. Sue me. I snapped out of it quickly!

We boarded and took off on time for the final leg of the trip to Dayton. This plane was not nearly as new, nice, or clean as the other one and definitely did not have a fancy device holder. I had to check my bag at the gate because there was no room in the overhead compartments for anyone’s carry-on suitcase. I have been on my fair share of tiny planes (hello, Acapulco) but seesh, they always feel like death traps. There were a ton of kids on the flight and a lot of crying but luckily it was a very short flight. I did not even attempt to sleep and instead, read on my Kindle.

The wide open fields and spaces were beautiful to look at from above but I was excited to get on the ground and see my friends. Brian and Melissa got married in Ohio 4 years ago while I was at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Mexico and I sadly had to miss it (I was not invited anyway… inside joke), so this was my first time experiencing their home turf. I went to Akron, OH for a work trip a long, long time ago and there was a family trip when our plan coming back from Germany had to re-route and refuel in Dayton (we never got off the plane… the alternate “Friends” ending), but otherwise, this was my first social trip to OH and I was looking forward to it!

Brian picked me up and gave me the grand tour of his hometown. We made a few pitstops at Kroger and a liquor store to stock up for the weekend before arriving at their house. I had seen the house many times on FaceTime so it already felt like home to me. Melissa and I exchanged our hugs before she went back to her home office to finish working for the day and I made my way outside to their incredible backyard to say hi to the dogs, Blue and Billy. They were either really excited to see someone new or totally remembered me from their Texas days! I will assume the latter, of course.

Brian and Melissa visited Houston in May (our first reunion in over a year) but it did not feel like 2 months had passed. We always ease right back into things as if nothing changed. Those are the best kinds of friendships! Melissa and I got the party started by making Pineapple Prosecco Punch and we ordered Bagger Dave’s for dinner and socialized while we waited for the kids to get home. I was starving by then and scarfed my burger down embarrassingly quick.

I was super excited for the kids to arrive! Fiona was barely and year and a half old when they left and Calvin a little less than 2 months old. Fiona was always at the bar with us on Sundays for volleyball so we had all bonded with her quite a bit back in the day. I had FaceTimed with the kids a few times but I had no expectations that they would remember me. They were both hesitant at first but I very quickly won them both over. It was wild to see how much they had grown up: Fiona was a little over two and a half and talking so much, equally sassy and sweet. Calvin was almost a year and a half now and was walking and cracking me up. We did puzzles, ran around the house, played outside, and became best friends (obviously). Fiona loved my rings, specifically my Aggie ring, and I taught her how to do a thumbs up and say Gig ‘Em to Brian. Queen Aunt, right here. Luckily, he did not kick me out for the weekend! Fi helped make dinner and outsourced her labor to me. Example:

Melissa: “Fiona, can you please get the blueberries?”
Fiona: “Gigi, can you please get the blueberries?”

We played a lot more after dinner and got plenty of giggles and cuddles before the kids went to bed. I was starting to crash myself but Brian’s volleyball league was in a few hours and I was eager to play. We attempted to go through a convenient store drive-thru (amazing) but the line was long. We drove through the hilly neighborhoods and passed the factory that was the subject of the American Factory documentary before arriving at MVS, an indoor/outdoor sand volleyball facility.

I was incredibly intimidated walking up to the courts. The place was huge and the teams all looked really, really strong. The venue was massive and the drinks were cheap! We grabbed a drink and watched his friends play a few games on the indoor courts as we waited for our turn. The courts were so much bigger than mine at home and there were more “official” rules than my league so I was very nervous. I did not want to disappoint his team! Our game was on one of the outdoor courts and just as we started to warm up, it rained. Of course. There was some chaos on if we would still play or not but it slowed for a bit (and eventually stopped during our first game) and we got started. Brian’s team consisted of him, Barry, Chuka and me. The opposing team all looked to be about 20ft tall, increasing my nerves. I played backrow for most of the game and had some insanely impressive digs, even for me. The few times I did play setter (my normal position at home), I broke the B Division “spin” rule so mostly stuck to bump setting. My serves were pretty solid and I had a few hot streaks. The team complimented me a lot, validating my volleyball skills and making me feel like I am not totally trash at the sport (or just blowing smoke up my butt). We lost the first game, won the second, and won the third. I had SUCH a fun time playing! It was some of the best volleyball I have probably ever played and I felt a little proud of myself. The rallies were long and it was overall really strong, fun volleyball. It was also great to get to play with my friend and teammate again! We only wished Todd could have been there with us. I had met Barry a few times in Houston so it was fun to get to hang out with him again, too.

We have a rule in our leagues for game point serves: if you miss, you buy everyone a shot and if you get an ace, everyone buys you a shot. You will be either drunk or poor so game point serves are important! Barry missed game point so he bought everyone a round of shots at the end. Brian and I got back to the house just before 11:30pm and I was wiped out. It had been such a long travel day on very little sleep. The games had left me feeling on top of the world and invincible, making it a little difficult to doze off, so I listened to music until finally crashing.

Friday, July 16

Fiona let me borrow her room for the weekend and I slept fairly well. I was up by 8:30am and messed around on my phone before heading downstairs to start the day. Melissa had to work a half day and was on video calls so I silently read my Kindle for the morning and tried to re-hydrate. She said “good morning” at one point and I thought it was to me and I replied… until I heard someone on the call say “I guess there are visitors today.” Oops. In my defense, it could have been a lot worse. Once she was finished with calls, we all socialized and planned the day. Todd and Rachel were arriving in the early afternoon and we were pumped for them to get there. I had to re-shower because I slept with my hair wet and it was massive. Brian made eggs and toast and we watched Shameless until it was time to go to the airport. We all started re-watching Shameless together when Brian and Melissa were in Houston and I meant to keep watching it after they left but forgot. Such a good show. I really need to watch it again (note to self: start re-watching Shameless instead of forgetting again).

Todd and Rachel’s flight was delayed coming out of Chicago but once they were in the air, Brian and I headed to the airport to scoop them up. We passed downtown and Brian talked about the history of the Dayton. I love a fun fact so it was all really interesting to me. Todd and Rachel were clearly very tired (we all were) so it was a silent ride back to the house. They were starving so we grabbed Melissa and headed to The Pub for lunch. The Pub’s “signature” dish was traditional Fish ‘N Chips so just about all of us ordered that and we had a few rounds of cocktails. Not surprisingly, a little food and booze perked us all up!

We dropped Todd and Rachel off at their hotel so they could check-in and settle and while we went back to the house. Melissa and I picked up the kids from daycare; Fiona was so excited to see us (and me, duh)! Just then, it started POURING rain. Pouring. POURING. I told Fiona, “Oh no, it’s raining” to which she replied very matter-of-factly, “Don’t worry Gigi, rain cannot hurt you.” True! Melissa and I each took a kid and ran to our side of the car with the correct car seat… only to realize we were on the wrong sides of the vehicle and had to run to swap. We were all drenched and laughing and having a good time with it. Fiona entertained us with a Luke Combs song on the way home and it was the cutest. She mimicked the twang in the song and everything.

The rain lasted only a few minutes and was stopped by the time we got home. Brian picked up Todd and Rachel so they could see the kids before the grandparents watched them for the weekend. It was fun to watch Fiona and Calvin reintroduce themselves to all of us and funny to watch Fiona look at old pictures of her WITH us and realize that we all knew her from back then. You could see the wheels turning in her little head. Calvin would obviously have no memory of us but that little man was happy as a clam just walking around and being silly.

Once the kids left, we planned our evening. The original plan was to go see a Dayton Dragons game because Brian got free tickets from work but with the weather being unpredictable, we all decided it was best to skip and go out on the town. Melissa and I cleaned up and we all headed out to the Oregon District in downtown Dayton. Our first stop was at Lucky’s for a few rounds of incredibly strong drinks. So much for starting slow! Our next stop was at Belle of Dayton Distillery where we only had time for one round before our dinner reservations. I insisted we get a group picture before the sun went down and even though it was a disaster, we managed to get a good one!

Our dinner reservations were at Salar. Brian and Melissa said it was one of the best places to eat and only the best for us! It was a short walk over and we were all feeling really good. Dinner was DELICIOUS. We enjoyed appetizers, entrees, dessert, and a few too many bottles of wine but had the most fun time. The baseball game would have been nice but this was so much better because it allowed us to socialize more. We all laughed so much and roasted each other for every possible thing. Have I mentioned how much I love when the 5 of us are together? We closed the place down, dropped Todd and Rachel off at their hotel, and headed home for the night.

It rained and stormed all night and I was terrified of a tornado! The lightening was insane. Blue kept sneaking into Fiona’s room and hiding under the bed but I eventually caved and invited him up to come snuggle.

Saturday, July 17

We had an early wakeup time on Saturday, tournament day! I was up at 6:30am and was feeling great with the exception of a slight headache. Nothing Advil could not solve. I helped Brian prep the car for the inevitable muddy mess and became a doctor when I bandaged Melissa’s hurt finger up for the day. I made sandwiches for everyone, one of the few things I know how to do, and we were out the door by 7:30am, right on time. We picked up Todd and Rachel, piled into the backseat, and made our way to the tournament. The forecast had been showing rain and temperatures in the 70s but it ended up being a really decent day. Whew.

Brian had talked about this tournament for years but you had to see it to believe it. Those courts were wild. We parked and made our way to the section Chuka reserved for us the night before (thankfully, right by where our court for the day was). Todd, Rachel, and I met the rest of our team (8 people on a team) and another team of their friends who we were sharing tents/resources with for the day.

There were 35 courts and people everywhere. Several teams were dressed up in themes and having a good time with it. Brian had told us to bring clothes we did not care about but more importantly, to bring cleats that we would need to duct tape to our feet… it was about to get real. Everyone passed around the tape and prepped for the first game at 9am. Todd and I were so excited to play and get started.

The tournament served beer but the unofficial “challenge” was how to sneak in liquor without getting caught. Out of all of the water bottles and water jugs everyone brought, let’s just say only 5% of them probably contained water. We had Gatorade because Brian insisted we hydrate while we dehydrate. Yikes. We played a total of 6 games to 25 over the course of the next 6ish hours. We played flip cup, mud wrestled, and drank a LOT in between games. I cannot believe Brian did not go home to Dayton each year when he lived in Houston to attend this muddy mess. It took Todd and I all of 5 minutes to decide we would be back every single year, no question. I had a lot of fun getting to know all of their friends and it was nice to see Brian’s family again, too. It was definitely a “you had to be there” situation so I will let the pictures do most of the talking for how the day went. It was an INCREDIBLY fun time and I am so glad that Brian and Melissa invited us to join. There were no injuries and only minor sunburns so I will call the whole thing a win.

We rinsed off the best we could and piled back into the car, all feeling very “sauced” and torn up. We got back to the house a little after 5pm and I uncharacteristically went straight upstairs to shower and cleanup without helping unload the car. I still feel bad about that. I must not have been fully aware or assumed we would do it later, I do not know. Bad Jillian. I did the best to get mud out of… everywhere… in the shower and tossed my clothes and shoes into a trash bag. Getting mud and twigs out of my hair was not easy. Once I felt I was finally “clean enough,” I took an hour long nap but honestly probably could have slept through the night. Todd, Rachel, and Steve came over and we all ate pizza and chatted about the tournament and lounged around. They were all drinking but I was done for the day – I needed water, stat. Rachel snapped a ton of pictures (be still, my heart) but I was so upset with out large I looked. Bleh. I knew I had gained weight recently but dang, seeing it like that was disheartening. Granted, I had been drinking, we bloat throughout the day, “who cares,” and yada yada but I beat myself up over it pretty badly. Brian texted me a photo from the day and I noticed that my entire text thread with him was deleted and I racked my brain all night trying to figure out how that could even happen. Oh well.

Todd and Rachel went back to the hotel around 10pm and the rest of us lounged and watched Shameless for a little while longer. Brian felt bad that we were not “doing anything” but I was incredibly happy to just rest and relax. My head was killing me and it was nice to wind down. I blew my nose and it was basically all mud. Something told me I would be finding mud in places for a few days… I eventually made my way to bed.

Sunday, July 18

I did not sleep well but that was not a shock considering I had not slept well in a few days. I gave up around 8:30am and went to shower. I still felt covered in mud and my toenails were a disgusting mess. No fixing those until I got home. A little bit an overshare but I started my period which made me feel slightly better about looking and feeling so huge and bloated in every picture and which definitely explained my incredible headache. I could still stand to lose a few LBs but it made me feel excused for a minute.

I packed and we continued watching Shameless all morning. Melissa made a delicious breakfast scramble/hash, too. She is so good at whipping up something delicious without even trying! Todd, Rachel, and I were all on the same flight home in the afternoon so we picked them up and Brian and Melissa dropped us all off at the airport. It was a quiet ride; we were all exhausted. I was so sad when Brian and Melissa moved to Ohio because I think a part of me thought I would never see them again (insert “people always leave” pity party here) but saying goodbye was easier this time. They came to Houston, we had now visited them with plans to come back. I was confident we would stay in touch and therefore I did not need to be sad anymore!

We masked up and headed into the airport. Even though there was no security line, I still went through the TSA Pre-Check lane so I would not have to take off my shoes and do the whole song and dance to get through. I breezed through and then went to buy water, peanut butter M&Ms (because I clearly forgot how much crap I gave myself the night before about my weight…), and my Ohio keychain while Todd and Rachel made their way through security. We chatted about the weekend and I worked on gathering and organizing pictures from everyone from the tournament. I do not have Facebook and images resize if sent through text message so it was a whole process of getting people to use Google Drive or Dropbox but we all got there and made it happen. I am a freak about collecting pictures so I was really happy to get that taken care of.

It was a super short flight from Dayton to Ohio and I read the whole time. The flight attendant was super kind and encouraging about reminding people to continue wearing their masks. I thought she handled everything like a pro. we had a 45 minute layover in Chicago, only 30 minutes by the time we took a bathroom break and made it to our gate. We somehow managed to devour pizza and 2 rounds of drinks in that brief window before boarding the longer flight to Houston. I was in a different boarding group than them so I left them and boarded the plane.

I must have fallen asleep while we were taxiing because I did not remember taking off. I woke up 30 minutes into the flight and finished Garden State before reading my Kindle the rest of the way. The kid in front of me kept opening my window (which was very clearly in my row) and I felt challenged so I kept closing it. We eventually bonded; it was his first trip on a plane and he was excited. The kid chatted up the guy next to me, too. He was making friends left and right. I debated ordering a drink but when the other two people in my row ordered alcohol, I decided to go for it. Our row clearly was ready to rage. The wine was trash but what did I expect? We landed right on time at 6:30pm but waited awhile before we were at a gate. I turned my phone on and there was a sweet message from Melissa. Apparently, Fiona had asked where all her new friends had gone and was sad when she found out we left! Precious.

We made our way to the parking lot shuttles and said our goodbyes. We all see each other every Sunday so no long, emotional goodbye was necessary! It felt like it took a lifetime to get to my car and eventually to my Dad’s house to pick up Elliott. Everywhere was so busy for a Sunday night but I guess everyone was either getting home or trying to get home (logic courtesy of the new beau). I also got hit on by one of the guys I met at mud volleyball so that was something.

I was at my Dad’s for an hour, catching up with them. Elliott was actually happy to see me this time! He and I made it home just before 10pm. Whew! I was exhausted and happy to be home.

Covid has been a struggle so it was really nice to get away and spend time with some of my most favorite people, playing a sport we all initially bonded over years ago. I had a truly amazing weekend and cannot wait until we are all together again!


Until next time,

Jillian

… 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 so