Notes on Whitewater Rafting, Grad School and Being Alive

I’m currently in the process of enjoying a week off from grad school, and I am reveling in the freedom of it all.

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I just got back from a trip to New Mexico to check off whitewater rafting from my bucket list. It was an incredible trip. The exhilaration of rafting aside, there was also gorgeous wineries and breathtaking sunsets and enjoying mountain views paired with breakfast from the balcony of our AirBnB. I also devoured arguably the best burger of my life, which was found at a tiny BBQ shack off the highway in Embudo, New Mexico. As a PSA, it’s called Sugar’s BBQ and Burgers and the Sugar Burger will change your life. Road-tripping New Mexico is always nothing short of astounding; Doing so with one of my favorite bucket list buddies made the Land of Enchantment all the more enchanting.

In the past 365 days, Shannon and I have shared some pretty sweet experiences. We’ve planted kisses on the Blarney Stone in Ireland, road-tripped from Ohio to Canada and now whitewater rafted in New Mexico. Shoutout to Shan for holding my knees as the rest of my body flew out of said raft within the first five minutes of our excursion. We hadn’t even hit a rapid yet. I’m just that good at life. Our guide then reinstructed my group on the importance of using our listening ears. I can’t remember if he actually used the term “listening ears”, but I do remember feeling like a disobedient kindergartner. When he said “lean in” for the rest of the trip, I was the best leaner-inner EVER.

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This entire summer has been such an adventure, and I am still basking in the wonder of it all. I’ve barely had a moment to collect my thoughts before turning in another assignment or taking off to another destination.

And now? For the next seven days?  I can read whatever books I want to! I can go out late and not worry about homework the next day! I can Netflix binge! I can give my little fam all of the extra cuddles! Never have I enjoyed the luxury of spare time as much as I have within these short breaks of my MBA program.

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This last semester was the most challenging semester I’ve yet to experience. Two weeks ago, I was writing an 8 page paper for one class while researching business acquisitions for the longest, most in-depth presentation of my life for another. This presentation had me feeling completely out of my element. One night I had a nightmare about having to perform a piano recital in front of an audience, though I haven’t any clue how to play piano. I woke up with the knowledge that the dream stemmed from feeling overwhelmed with a topic that, up until this semester, had been completely foreign to me. I was slightly terrified as my group got up to present last Tuesday. But we did it, and we must have done it well. Our professor, not one to hand out easy A’s, gave us a 100. A 100! In the past few months, I have learned so much and have developed a deeply rooted confidence in myself that I’ve never known before. It feels unbreakable. I feel unbreakable. It was the most challenging semester, but it was also hands down the most rewarding.

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The same professor mentioned above attached a small note to one of my grades. In the required journal articles for Organizational Change, I had tied in my years of being homeschooled to my transformational leadership story. Her comment made my day.

“I would have never guessed you had been kept out of the mainstream. You are remarkable.”

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Remarkable. I smile typing it out. What a word. What a compliment.

What a summer.

What a time to be alive.

Soundtrack of Summer 2016

“The sun will steal the magic from us soon,

So let’s take one more trip around the moon.”

– Sam Hunt, Leave The Night On

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Oh, you guys. What a summer.

Last night I finished my last day of my first year of grad school. A year from today I’ll graduate with my MBA, and tomorrow I leave for New Mexico to go whitewater rafting. I’m a little bit high on life right now, and nostalgic with the memories from the past few months.

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It’s been a summer of travels and healthy overdoses of laughter. House parties and balconies and swimming pools. Road-trips and best friendship and fun strangers. Family and fireflies and anticipation. Long runs and late nights. Schoolwork and a classroom and making a family out of the people sitting in that classroom. And dancing. So much dancing.

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I remember my summers, and all of my other seasons, partly through the music I’ve listened to at the time. A tune so effortlessly takes me back to a moment, and bookmarks the feelings and essence of certain pieces of my life. Last summer was the summer of Sam Hunt, though if you can’t tell from the intro to this blog, his songs are making a comeback for this one too. Sam Hunt transposes all summers. Also if you don’t like him we can’t be friends anymore. I’m just kidding. Kind of. Friend two pictures above can’t stand him and I only judge her every single day.

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 So while I show y’all some pictures from the dreamiest of summertimes, I thought I’d also share with you the songs I’ve been listening to on constant repeat. This is what my summer sounded like.

Vandalizer- Sam Hunt

(Okay, but for real if you don’t like that song we can’t be friends.)

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Setting The World On Fire – Kenny Chesney featuring P!nk

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Latch- Disclosure featuring Sam Smith

Vacation- Thomas Rhett

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Home- Blue October

Vice – Miranda Lambert

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Luck- American Authors

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Snapback- Old Dominion

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Closer- The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey

(Aka all I’ve listened to for the past two days)

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Hey. If you’ve been a part of my summer, thanks. You’ve helped make an unforgettable soundtrack.

NOLA & Things

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I chose the above picture to start off this blog post despite the fact that it’s blurry and I look a bit like a joyful but crazed maniac. I thought it was appropriate in that life has been a crazy, happy blur lately.

Early Monday morning I got back from a long weekend trip to Nola with my besties. I’ve known Meg since I was an awkward twelve-year-old and Bryant since I was an arguably even more awkward seventeen-year-old. Around the time we first met, I randomly told him that if you changed the letters in my name around, it would spell “Antichrist.” This is one letter short from actually being true, but to this day he has my name in his phone as “Antichrist.” That’s true friendship, y’all.

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This was my third trip to Nola but my first time to throw up in a bush, so that was monumental. Also my first time to match shirts with an elderly stranger (see above picture) and to find out that my drink of choice (Malibu and pineapple) is a typical mom drink. So basically I’m an old lady, guys. I don’t hate it.

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Meg had an early plane to catch the morning after I threw up in a bush, so she was gone by the time I was wallowing in hangover misery. Bryant and his wonderful girlfriend Leslie brought over iced coffee and lots of food, and from there Bryant imitated my dance moves from the night before. I was burying my head in my hands and turning bright red but also cracking up laughing. I’m smiling now as I write this because I’m really spoiled with the people I have in my life. The three of us drove back to Austin together and it will probably always remain one of my most cherished road trips. It didn’t hurt that Bryant drove the entire time.

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There are quite a few other moments in between day 1 and 4 in Nola that also make me smile. On day 2, Meg and I got stuck in a downpour that lasted over two hours. We hid under a restaurant’s patio for as long as we could, but eventually we agreed to just buy rain ponchos and go about our day. My prediction was that we’d buy the ponchos and it would immediately stop raining, and my prediction was completely accurate. Regardless, I can now say that I’ve frolicked around New Orleans in a giant garbage bag with my best friend.

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On night 2, I rode a mechanical bull and Meg, Bryant, Leslie and I ended up at a bachelor party’s open bar. Shoutout to our weekend friends John and Brian for the invite and also to Brian for taking a picture with me inside of a fireplace, the reasoning for which I have yet to remember.

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Needless to say, Nola was a blast and I’ve not-so-grudgingly given up on homework for the night to write this post. This weekend I have a paper to write, a presentation to begin preparing and an MBA cohort bbq to host. I have a blog tasting at a bakery tomorrow and am planning a trip to go whitewater rafting in New Mexico next month. Like I said, life is a blur right now. But it’s the best blur. I have the notion that I’ll look back on this summer one day, and while I won’t remember every detail, I’ll remember this feeling. The feeling of being alive, and young, but old enough to laugh at myself and to have the go-to drink of Mailbu and pineapple.

I leave you with a video of me throwing a mini temper-tantrum after losing a second game of rock-paper-scissors to Pathi on Tuesday. It got pretty intense. This is grad school life at its finest, friends.

 

 

 

Delysia Chocolatier Tasting

Note: This post was written back in April. In between studying for finals and planning a trip to Ireland, I completely forgot to post it. Glancing at my blog drafts, I realized I have been withholding my readers from chocolate euphoria. My deepest apologies, dearest friends.

Hidden in an unassuming warehouse lot is a building that is half in Cedar Park, half in Austin. From the outside, you would never guess that this is one of the top ten chocolatiers of both North and South America. Walking inside, it’s not so hard to imagine. Welcome to Delysia Chocolatier, y’all.

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Delysia’s brings the taste of fine European chocolate to the Austin area, and the interior says as much. Simple but elegant, colorful but refined, the chocolatier immediately sets itself apart from its neighbors. Stepping into the doors of Delysia’s is what I imagine it must have been like for Hansel and Gretel to find the house made of candy deep in the forest. Except there is no evil old lady, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

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No, in this shop of chocolate you will find Nicole, the business owner and chocolate-maker who, in fact, does not eat chocolate. “It gives me migraines.” she tells me. Wait. Like, do you need a permanent taste tester? Just to keep you in the best of health? Because I’d totally be down for this gig.

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Nicole began dabbling in chocolate at eight months pregnant when her husband had an office party in need of food. She didn’t feel like leaving the house to buy groceries, and had recently been bingeing on Food Network. This is where her chocolate experimentation began. Years later, the divinity that is Delysia Chocolatier was born.

An engineer by trade, Nicole is now using her talents to design the loveliest and tastiest of chocolates. The exquisite flavors melted and danced in my mouth, and I somehow managed to fight the urge of jumping up and down whilst saying ‘OH MY GOD SO GOOD.’ But there is more to Delysia than just deliciousness. Nicole has turned the business of chocolate making into a work of art. The entire experience, from walking through the doors to eating little pieces of heaven to touring the facility, was like witnessing a masterpiece. I’m talking a fried chicken-baked potato-bloody mary-merlot chocolate (Yes, these are all actual options at Delysia) masterpiece. Excuse me while I go dream about bathing in truffles.

Pst-  For all my non-Austin friends, you can order Nicole’s chocolates online! They make a great gift if you can refrain from eating them all first. If you have the level of self-control that I do when it comes to delicious things, the empty boxes would make a pretty gift too.

 

Summertime and the Living Is…

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It’s summertime and the living is managerial accounting. And by that I mean, help me, I’m a grad student. This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever taken summer classes, and I’m a little surprised by how much I’m not totally hating it.

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It does help that I get to spend every Tuesday evening with my cohort family, and that our nights are laced with laughter and a list of other shenanigans. Pictured above you can see my gifting British friend Sam his very first jalapeno popper. If you haven’t ever had a jalapeno popper, you should do so immediately. It’s a gutted and halved jalapeno, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon. I wrap it with maple bacon because I enjoy the taste of happiness. If you can’t tell by co-bro Samuel’s face, he most definitely approved.

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In between classes and studying, I’ve been able to squeeze in a few summer adventures too. Road-tripping Ireland with my cousins wasn’t too shabby a start. From hiking the Austin 360 Bridge for the first time to spending a poolside and margarita Memorial Day with my fam, the past couple of weeks haven’t sucked either.

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As for work, this month I’ve had the chance to help give away a $33,000 check to Susan G. Komen and to produce and star as Justin Timberlake in a Can’t Stop The Feeling music video parody. Spoiler Alert: I am a terrible JT and can’t dance to save my life. But dude, this social media director had such a blast making a dancing fool of herself.

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It’s summertime and the living might not be easy. But it’s fulfilling, and fun and so full of love. Dare I say those things are much better than easy?

When Life Sparkles

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“I had the time of my life, fighting dragons with you.”

Long Live, T-Swift (Duh)

This is a season of my life that is sparkling in its goodness.

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I’ve just finished my second semester of grad school. I survived with the help of my cohort, otherwise known as my academic support system, partners in MBA crime and the best of drinking buddies. I started this program with the main goal of furthering my education, but in the process I’ve gained a second family. Graduation is a year from this August, and I know most of us will be a messy mixture of emotions when that time comes. It will be the most bittersweet of days.

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With an entire week of freedom before summer classes start again, this is when I greedily binge on books, family moments and Netflix. I’m in the process of watching Mad Men for the first time and everyone can find me crying in a corner when I finish season 7. But I digress. This has also been a week for reflection, and I’m reflecting on the pure magic that has been the month of April.

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Out of town best friends have visited, and the laughter and long talks are still lingering in my mind. There was one evening spent in a hotel room that quickly led to the kind of laughter that makes tears form and stomachs hurt. I’m so grateful to have people in my life that induce the happiest of crying and belly aches.

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We also celebrated Bryn’s second birthday earlier this month. My talented, practicing photographer grandma snapped some family pictures pre-party. (I think I just made a tongue twister.)

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I’m still constantly amazed by this little person that my favorite guy and I created together. Bryn is sassy and goofy and wildly independent and even more extroverted than I am. She’s this fierce little firecracker who sees the wonder in absolutely everything. I’m forever grateful that she calls me mom. And also that she sleeps until 9 every morning. You’re my bae, Brynlee Mae.

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The ‘rents hosted Bryn’s party at their house, and it was a day to remember. My mom made her famous peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and my friend Amy drove out to the boondocks of Texas to spend the entire day with us. We drank mimosas and celebrated my cute kid whilst my sweet pal got to know the entire fam. By the end of the day, she was gossiping with my grandparents and trying to trap my brother in a closet. It’s safe to say she’s one of us now.

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Speaking of ‘us’, a family girl’s trip to a gorgeous resort in the Texas Hill Country was another April gem. This trip wouldn’t have been complete without the usual Cirotto shenanigans. My cousin and I both suffered burn wounds from our attempts to light the outdoor fire pit. It attacked us, really. I lost some arm hair but heartfelt conversations around said fire made it more than worth it.

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There was a hot tub and late night jumps into icy cold pool water, because my fam knows Tina simply can’t turn down a dare. There was also a lovely winery and tasty three course dinners, and stunning sunsets with the loveliest of company. And trying to teach Jackie how to take a selfie. And prank calling other members of our family at all hours of the night, because isn’t that what mature adults do at family gatherings? Let me not forget the last night at the resort, when my aunt, cousin and I attempted to scare my poor grandma in the next room. I thought I might die of laughter-stifling when Jackie started army crawling across the floor towards her mom’s- my grandma’s- bed. My cousin and I followed not-so-stealthily behind until we were discovered and yelled at to go to bed. More manic laughter ensued.

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So much of who I am today is a result of all the ladies I grew up with. Woman power runs strong in my clan, y’all. I got really lucky, being born into this crazy, beautiful family of mine.

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I can already tell that this is a time of my life that I’ll be wishing I could have back one day. While it’s here, I’m just doing the best I can to treasure every precious moment.

Cryotherapy is Cool (And Cold)

The weather in Austin is warming up but last weekend I had a chillingly good blogging experience.

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Ever heard of cryotherapy? I hadn’t until just a few weeks ago so I’ll give you the lowdown.

Cryotherapy is the use of extremely low temperatures – we’re talking up to -130 degrees – to aid in a slew of health issues. Decreased fatigue, better sleep, less body pain, weight loss,  a boosted immune system… .Really, I could go on with the long list of benefits all day. As a runner, I was personally interested in cryotherapy when I learned it can help heal injured joints. My knees are starting to take note of my decade of jogging, so I loved knowing that cryotherapy could help heal my old lady parts. That and it just sounded like such an adventure. And oh, was it.

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I walked into Cryo Body Works admitting I was a little nervous about the extreme temperatures that I would be subjecting my near naked body to. The sweet gal at the front counter comforted me. “Have you ever taken an ice bath?” No, no I have not. “Oh. Well, it’s a lot better than that!” Good? Gulp.

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Guys, let me tell you. If I took the coldest I’ve ever been and multiplied it by like, fifty-five and a half, this is how cold I was entering the cryosauna. They recommend you go in with nothing but your undies and these adorable little booties they let you borrow, so this is exactly what I did. No bra even! It got a little nippy in there, if you know what I’m saying. I stepped inside and the cold, dry air immediately welcomed me. It was exciting. AND SO COLD. I was told that the normal session lasts for three minutes, but that newbies usually go for two to two and a half. Two minutes went by much faster than I thought it would. I think maybe my brain was partly frozen too, so that was helpful. Through chattering teeth, I asked to stay until 2 minutes, 30 seconds. I cannot be the weak newbie!

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I felt like a frozen warrior princess walking out of that machine. I survived! I had burned 500-800 calories just standing there! I did a new thing that made me feel like a human ice-cube! And really, I loved every frigid second of it.

Cryo Body works was the perfect place for me to dabble in cryotherapy for the first time. First timers get an amazing deal for their session, so I would definitely recommend trying it out, y’all. The staff was friendly and accommodating, and I was smitten with the relaxing, spa-like environment. The whole experience was invigorating, refreshing and made me feel just a little more alive. And also cold. Did I mention cold?

Note: I received my cryotherapy session free of charge, but Cryo Body Works did not otherwise compensate me for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.