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.

New Mexico/Arizona 2013

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My New Mexico/Arizona vacation was just as amazing and enchanting (Enchanting is one of my favorite words, and New Mexico is The Land Of Enchantment. How could I not be in love?!) as I hoped it would be. Here’s my trip favorites explained in pictures (and captions! And a video!):

Food. Oh guys, I ate so good. Banana pancakes, cheesy pesto pasta, whipped cream and chocolate covered waffles, jalapeno and pineapple pizza….I could go on. But I’m making myself hungry. So I’ll stop, I guess. :

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Las Cruces, New Mexico is known for their wineries. I am known for loving my wine. A rather perfect combination, eh?

wineeWhite Sands, New Mexico. Stunning. And so fun to play in! I asked to borrow sand sleds from young children. They obliged and then their parents offered to take pictures. In other words, I’m five at heart and folks are great.

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Ruidoso, New Mexico. Beautiful and quaint shopping area, nestled in the mountains of one of my favorite states.

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“The Thing”– Roadside attraction, gas station and museum all in one. Pretty impressive. The oddity of it all made it one of my favorite parts of the trip. It’s not everyday that I walk through a mystery door at a gas station in the middle of nowhere…. To then find myself outside the back of said gas-station looking at exhibits and following giant, painted footsteps from building to building……All whilst wondering what the heck “The Thing” could be. (I’ll save the surprise just in case you’re ever road-tripping Arizona.)

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The Rattlesnake Bridge of Tucson:

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Downtown Tucson, Arizona. And their adorable coffee shop. And yummy mimosas. And their fun wall art. Heck, I loved everything about downtown Tucson.

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The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Basically a humongous zoo, museum and playscape all in one. My kind of place, y’all.:

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Mission San Xavier Del Bac. Goosebump-inducingly gorgeous, historic church in Tucson.

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Scenic and dazzling views from the ski-lift at Mount Lemmon, Arizona 

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Making new friendly acquaintances. I just really love people. And I talk a lot. Katie told me she was half expecting me to walk out in arm-in-arm with a newly befriended person I met on my airplane ride to El Paso. She was half right. I did make a new buddy on the airplane, but she gave me her boarding ticket to look her up Facebook before making her way to the bathroom. In New Mexico, I made friends with a wine host whom we later had dinner with and two girlies at another wine tasting later that week. The owner of the store said that watching the four of us interact gave her goosebumps. I’ll definitely take that as a compliment!

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Beautiful views, everywhere we went. From Katie’s backyard all the way to our hotel room in Tucson, the mountainous scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

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More pretty views:

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Just getting to spend so much time, so many big laughs, so much 90’s-music-karaoke-filled-driving-time and so many fabulous adventures with one of my very best friends.

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To wrap things up, here’s a tiny video compilation of just a few of the good times had in New Mexico and Arizona. Caution: Do not watch if you do not want to see what “The Thing” is. Or if you have an understandable fear of white-girl dancing.

Needless to say, I had an absolutely marvelous time visiting Arizona for the first time and revisiting New Mexico with my Katiekins. (Or Katie, if we’re not doing nicknames here.) Life is pretty enchanting stuff, huh?

Detroit, Part One

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I wish I had time to fully explain this crazy, wonderful whirlwind that has been my life lately. But, you see, I just got back from filming a commercial in Detroit five days ago. Tomorrow, I leave for a vacation to visit one of my best friends in New Mexico and from there, road-trip to Arizona with her. (YAY!) As giddy as I am about this, I definitely didn’t plan on leaving the state two weeks in a row. The past few months have definitely taken me by surprise, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful. And on that note—A few weeks ago, I was sitting by my favorite pool, tanning on my day off. My phone rang and I was asked if I’d like to be flown, all-expenses paid, to Detroit to film my second paid commercial for U By Kotex. Considering I should be sleeping at this very moment as I have a 6:30 am flight tomorrow, here are the Cliff Notes of that trip (I’ll save part two for the nitty gritty details.) :

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Detroit Cliff Notes:

  • Flying first class for the first time, and feeling like a duck out of water, being the twenty-four year old girl surrounded by a bunch of middle-aged men. But completely taking advantage of the free drinks and comfy seats. Being confused when the flight attendant handed me a hot towel. It was so tightly rolled that I thought it was sushi at first, but I followed along with the middle-aged men and wiped my face with the thing?! When in Rome  flying first class….
  • Arriving at the gorgeous MGM Grand, and calling my husband, excitedly informing him that the shower was the size of our walk in closet at home. Taking full advantage of the whipped coffee/double espresso machine.
  • Having a makeup and wardrobe artist for the weekend

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  • Sitting in on a production meeting in which I drank wine whilst everyone in the room and on conference call tried to decide what outfit I would wear for the shoot. This also meant everyone, including me, having copies in their hands of uh, me….in different outfits. Okay, that was also a little weird. But a cool kind of weird.
  • Filming at the Fillmore, on the same stage that rock stars perform on.
  • Being doted upon and loved by the U By Kotex peeps, just by being my naturally happy, highly energetic, slightly dorky self.
  • Not being allowed to pay for anything, despite the all too generous per diem that was delivered to me. Oh, and somehow getting paid to have one of the best times of my life. Also that.

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  • Hanging out with the production team after-hours, while also getting a pretty incredible tour of the town. Amongst many other amazing experiences (more about those later)—I partied and mingled at a shop where bicycles and watches were made, slung makeshift slingshots at a sign in an office building, visited a breathtaking island between Detroit and Canada, drank cocktails way past closing time at Sugar House, ate a mix of delicious Mexican and Italian food at El Barzon, bowled at the oldest bowling alley in the US and climbed out of an apartment window to see an absolutely gorgeous view of Detroit. Needless to say, I fell madly and deeply in love with this underdog-rising-up city. And also the folks residing in it.

I really have to go to bed now, but a more thorough part two (with many more pictures!) is soon to come, friends. I wish I could come up with a perfect ending to describe in a few words how very smitten and amazed I am by everything happening to me right now, but I’m about to fall asleep on the keyboard. And I have a flight to catch in less than eight hours. So, er….Goodnight, y’all!