Reviewing 2016

Two weeks into the new year and I still can’t quite believe 2016 is over.

What a whirlwind of 365 days, y’all. I originally spelled that whirlwine, so you all know what’s on my mind.

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I have to smile when I reflect on the adventuring and the milestones marked this last year.

I road-tripped Ireland with two of my cousins and kissed the Blarney Stone. We drove through rolling hillsides full of spotted cows, drank more than our fair share of Guinness in many a pub and stood at the edges of the Ciffs of Moher. We frolicked through the Hills of Tara, climbed on basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway and wobbled in awe down the crickety Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. The beauty and history of this country is something that I feel so lucky to have witnessed firsthand and with people that I love a lot.

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Months later, cousin Shannon and I were checking off another shared bucket list item by whitewater rafting in New Mexico. I almost fell out within the first five minutes and had to be yanked back onto the raft by my lower body. It was exhilarating.

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Summer road trips to Oklahoma and New Orleans left me feeling grateful for long drives, adventures and the loved ones that made these things all the more worthwhile.

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My husband and I spent an anniversary trip in the enchanting Caye Caulker, Belize. We snorkeled with stingrays and sharks and that was slightly scary but mostly delightful. We bought a brownie from a stranger and laughed the night away. I took a group yoga class on a Belizean rooftop, and clumsily moved my limbs as the sun set. We sipped on four for one drinks and devoured the freshest of lobster and rode bikes through sandy, narrow streets. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better way to celebrate seven years of marriage with my best friend.

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2016 marked my first completed year and halfway point of grad school. It marked a year of development within my career and the blogging world. And it marked my one year of attending counseling, which has proven to be a turning point for my personal growth.

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There were a few times this past year where I noticed history trying to repeat itself in detrimental ways. The difference this time was that I didn’t let it. Can I just tell you how empowering that is? I found my voice, and I learned when and how to use it. I learned how to stand my ground, and I realized that sometimes this can and should be done silently. It was a year that taught me to openly make mistakes, to firmly disagree with those I love and to proudly show off both my victories and my scars. I wasn’t always right, so it was also a year that taught me how to be wrong. It was a year that left me feeling strong, brave and inspired. 2016 wasn’t perfect, but it taught me to roll with and even to sometimes revel in the imperfections.

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It was a year of discovery, of both things big and small, gentle and wild.

Happy 2017, friends.

Let’s be unapologetically flawed and untamable this year, shall we?

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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.

 

 

 

Ireland 2016, Part 1

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.
― Anais Nin

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Note: I started writing this post in Belfast, Ireland and ended it back in Texas.

Greetings from Ireland, y’all!

I’m currently writing from the quaintest of cottages in Belfast, where I have turned a pool table into a makeshift desk. Rain is gently pelting the roof and I’m typing with a glass of wine by my side.

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I arrived early Friday morning to meet my cousins at the Dublin airport, and already so much has happened. This was my first time to fly to Europe solo, and it was just as magical as I’d hoped it’d be. I made two new friends along the way. One on my seven hour layover in New York, who was a dog whisperer of sorts and on her way to England to attend an animal communication course. On the plane ride to Dublin, I met an aspiring rapper from Seattle who was catching a connecting flight to backpack Europe. One of my favorite things about exploring the world has always been the friendly and intriguing souls I meet on my way.

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My cousins and I road-tripped from Dublin all the way to Belfast. This meant we changed countries, currencies and politics all whilst remaining on the same island. Road-tripping Ireland was like a dream. The rolling country sides, the stops for a pint of Guinness, the beaches and the bakeries and the cliffs and even the perfectly spotted cows? It all seemed too beautiful to be real.

Even getting lost in Cork and driving around in circles for an hour seems like a mesmerizing mishap in hindsight.

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On our day spent at the Cliffs of Moher, we eventually found our way to the riskier parts of the cliffs. This area is traced with warning signs, and there is no one to whistle you back to the safety zones. I may or may not have been whistled back to said safety zones at other points of the day, so these whistle-free zones were my favorite. I sat down and scooted as close to the edge as I still felt safe. I thought to myself, “I would fall if I moved just this much closer.”, and that was both terrifying and exhilarating to know. Shannon joined me, (Janna had peaced out right before noting that she saw our lives flashing before her eyes) and we sat there and talked as the wind blew through our hair, just trying to take in the astounding beauty all around us. A few minutes passed before a few young guys appeared, one plopping down inches in front of me. Not to be outdone, (which could quite literally be the death of me), I scooted a few inches forward as well. “Whoa.” the dude said, reaching out his arm as if to protect me. I laughed. “You did it first.”

This is what traveling feels like to me. It feels like the wind blowing through my hair and life rushing through my veins. Like scooting just a little too close to a cliff’s edge while arguing with a complete stranger as if he is my kindergarten crush.

And what a feeling that is.

Seguin Brewery

To kick January off with a yeast-fermented bang, my hubby and I recently took a little road-trip to Seguin, Texas to enjoy some beer tastings at Seguin Brewing Co.

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I’m sure I’ve driven through Seguin multiple times over the years, but this was my first time to slow down and visit this lovely little city. My husband hadn’t been either, so it was exciting to go into this blogging adventure with my person, neither of us knowing exactly what to expect.

It was even better that the experience completely exceeded any expectations I could have had.

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Seguin Brewery is, as I told the brewery-owner multiple times, so charming.

Before even stepping inside the brewery itself, I was sold. There were couples and little ones and groups of friends just frolicking about. You may think to yourself, “Christina, really? Frolicking? Why do you always have to be so dramatic with your verbiage?” But GUYS, I looked it up so you don’t even know. Ahem. The definition of frolicking is to, “Play and move about cheerfully, excitedly, or energetically.’ This is exactly what was happening. But with beer in hand, so even better.

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During the quick but informative tour, I had a chance to hear about all of the care and dedication that goes into making their beer. Seguin Brewing uses a mixture of both old and new brewing techniques to create the most unique of beers. They managed to give me my first IPA that I actually enjoyed. Usually the bitterness of the hops is too much for me, but this was my first ever Black IPA. It was still a bit bitter, but I was okay with this as it was a much darker brew with hints of coffee. My taste buds were intrigued and happy.

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The ‘tastings’ themselves were actually three very generous pours of beers, and I was extra excited to find out that we got to keep the adorable glass that the pours came in. The hubs and I actually used them for our strawberry margarita, Connect 4 and Making A Murderer date night on Friday. So the glasses are quite versatile and also I am the reigning Connect 4 champion, if anyone was wondering.

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Moving back to the brewery, I was also smitten with the open and inviting atmosphere that the lack of doors created. I loved that the outdoor and indoors were united, as the outside was where so much of the magic happened. There was a huge Jenga table and giant lawn chairs and laughter all around. There was a chill in the air and smiles on the faces of all nearby. My husband owned me at a game of washers, but I was too giddy to even care THAT much. Seguin Brewing was overflowing with magic and happiness and BEER. Can there be a better combination than this one?!

The fun-loving owners also suggested eats for consuming after the brewery, which gave Robby and I an even better look at the enchanting, cozy town that is Seguin, Texas.

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In closing, I also loved seeing the motto featured on their website.

“Small town, big nuts!”

 Seguin Brewing, you’re doing it right.

(Note: My husband and I were given the tour and tastings at Seguin Brewing free of charge, but I was otherwise not compensated for my review. All opinions expressed are all mine!)

A (Belated) Review on an (Incredible) 2015

I’ve been meaning to write about my 2015 for a couple of weeks now. You know, pre-2016. Oops.

I’ve been wanting to write about what a big year it was for me. About the goals and steps that were made.

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About jumping into Texas’ largest underwater cave at Jacob’s Well and about new volunteer opportunities, like helping to get ladies wardrobe-ready for job interviews at Dress for Success.

About joining my first dodgeball team and enthusiastically being an uncoordinated thrower and dodger of balls.

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Also about hot-air ballooning for the first time and half-marathon running for the third time and travels galore.

About visiting five new-to-me-states; West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio and Delaware, and a new to me country; Canada. There were also repeat visit to Louisiana, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

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The memories made on these trips were ones filled with friends, family and my lover boy. They were full of late nights and laughter. There were beaches and a Louisianan treehouse and historical monuments and a giant Ferris wheel and a summertime BBQ with my second family. There were also local road-trips and a Taylor Swift concert and an enchanting Port Aransas trip with my clan. There was a magical night with the best friend spent haunted pub-crawling near DC, and there was taking the world’s tallest free-standing elevator to see some lovely views of Memphis with the husband. There was the majesty of Niagara Falls and smaller falls too. I found unexpected beauty in random places (like Medicine Park, Oklahoma) and pretty places to share smooches with my favorite guy (like Jackson Street Bridge in Atlanta.) There was a road-trip to Lafayette with my little brother and a delightful brunch in Cincinnati with my cousin. Simply put, it was a year of such spectacular adventures.

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2015 was also the first year that I was able to successfully step away from side-blogs and to begin taking on assignments and events for my own. It was such an awesome feeling to take some chances and see a dream like that come true.

Twenty-fifteen was also the first time that I started seeing a therapist. I’m open about my opinion that everyone should go to therapy, but this was the first year that I finally made the leap and went myself.  Being brave in many ways has become almost second-nature to me. Hang-gliding and bungee jumping and parasailing? Sure! Traveling to Italy at seven months pregnant? No problem! But emotional courage? Talking about feelings and being vulnerable? That’s where I can be a real scaredy-cat. The leap was a tough one, but it was also a magnificent one. The self-growth and awareness I have gained so far from this process has been humbling and life-changing.

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There are a couple of other things about 2015 that really stand out to me.

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Starting my MBA program is definitely one of them. Doing grad school while working full time and having a little one has been sometimes challenging, but more than anything, it has been incredibly rewarding. And it has also been so very fun. Last Tuesday was the start of our cohort’s second semester. We got out early and a group of us made our way to a nearby Mexican restaurant for margaritas and queso. I broke out my newly acquired selfie stick and we spent the night laughing, sharing stories and making fun of each other. After five months and one completed semester that we all survived together, it really does feel like we’ve made our own little family. And I am treasuring the heck out of this time and these people in my life.

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Work was also a big part of my year.

I’ve been smitten with my job as a social media rep from the start, but 2015 is the year that I felt I really delved into my role and found a new confidence in my career.

I love having a position that gives me so much freedom and flexibility, but being bestowed with more responsibility in 2015 was a special thing too. I was asked to help plan the annual holiday party for hundreds of team members and had a speaking part in a television ad for Race for the Cure. Working for a company that does so much to give back to the community feels good, and being able to take such an active role in it all feels like an honor.

In between all of this goodness was my favorite part of 2015 – Cuddling with and loving on my little family. They made my year the brightest it could possibly be.

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Simply put, 2015 was a year of beautiful things, both big and small. It was a collection of both ordinary and extraordinary moments, and I’m so thankful for every single one of them. Though, in all of its amplitude, 2015 taught me a big lesson on the small things too. It showed me that sometimes those seemingly ordinary moments are the most extraordinary ones of them all.