I just got home from a quick work retreat visiting Ashlee in Durham, NC and I’m returning with all the ideas and plans! Ashlee moved to North Carolina last summer after getting married and we’ve been working with me on the ground in LA and her doing every single thing she can remotely from there. We planned this few days to get together face to face for a bit of a “state of the union” and brainstorming session. It was much needed and I feel like we made all the plans!Continue reading
The day before Keller Williams Family Reunion (our annual conference) began in Las Vegas, Ashlee and I went to hike around Red Rock Canyon. The canyon is roughly 20-25 minutes from the Las Vegas strip and we conned an Uber into taking us there. Note: You do NOT have cell service once you arrive at the canyon so schedule your return with a driver BEFORE you get there. I was so thankful for having done a bit of research or it’s quite possible that we would have been stranded. Continue reading
Yesterday I turned 31. Last year I was soooo excited to be turning 30 and I even threw a big party to celebrate. This year I’m feeling a little more low key and choosing to soak up some R&R where I can. I asked Matthew for a shopping trip for my birthday because that ole closet of mine is needing a refresh these days. This past weekend, we went to Jackson, MS to hit up some of my favorite stores and check out the outlet mall. Here’s a fun recap of the weekend.
I remember our first flight together. We were barely married and I was tagging along for a work trip to Vegas. We knew so little about one another then and definitely didn’t know what to expect as we traveled across multiple states together for the first time. As soon as we sunk into our seats, Matthew pulled out a book and earbuds, and I was struck with disappointment. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t bring anything to do on the flight. Somehow, I had concocted this romantic notion that we’d spend the entire flight talking about our new life together, or dreams, or what we’d do on our trip. This wouldn’t be the first time that I romanticized a scenario that didn’t play out quite as I envisioned. (By the way, this post has nothing to do with a fight really. I just liked the alliteration.)
Now, four years later, we’ve traveled many places together. We’ve gone by plane, train, and automobile. We’ve taken long trips. Short trips. Exciting adventures and basic routes. Now, four years later, I know what to expect when we travel together. I turned the planning and route management reigns over to him. That’s marriage, you know. Giving and taking. Relinquishing control along the way. Sharing roles. Sometimes this happens naturally as you settle into new roles together. Sometimes it doesn’t happen without a fight or an immense amount of effort. Nonetheless, I know more of what to expect these days, both in travel and in life.
Today, as I sit next to my husband on a noisy flight, I go back and forth between reading, writing, and listening to music. I have several options for entertainment. I watch as his head bobs, up and down and side to side, as he doses with his headphones firmly intact. Even when he wakes, I know we won’t say more than 5 words until the plane lands. Watching his head bob is both the most adorable thing and also the most comforting. I know what to expect today. Much more so than I did on that first flight. I don’t take his earphones or reading as a sign of disregard of me. Instead, it’s just how he flies. And that’s that. I’ll delve into another chapter or another song and I’ll let my mind wander here and there.
So many of these little lessons and moments of enlightenment have come throughout the last four years, not just regarding flights and travels. I wonder, how many more shall present themselves over a lifetime. I can hardly imagine. I realize both what an accomplishment it is to be where we are today, and I simultaneously learn how more of those routines are developed. You learn so much. You learn the others person’s strengths and weaknesses. Their quirks. The things that make your mind wander with excitement, as well as the things that make you feel like you could snap their necks with your bare hands. What a concept! To share a life together and to survive doing so.
Right now, at four years, I feel like both newlyweds and veterans. We are much better at this than we were in the beginning, and that deserves some credit. Like physical awards and such. And yet, there’s still so much to learn. So many more years to learn and grow and experience things together. I’m reminded of times of seeing couples who had been married for years upon years, and to see the ease of their routines at play is amazing. It’s something to be honored and revered. And hopefully someday we’ll be a well-oiled machine like those couples. For now, we’ll truck along being our 2012 Honda selves – a few rattles and yet still miles and miles left on those tires.
I realized that months have passed and I still haven’t finished sharing details about our Alaska trip. Since we’re enjoying some time in the Rocky Mountains this week, I thought it would be a good time to talk more about the lovely Alaskan vacation.
On our first full day there, we visited Denali National Park. I had very high expectations for the park because I was told that this is where you see the majority of the wildlife. If I’m being honest, I sort of expected it to be like a safari park of sorts…we ride around in a bus and feed wildlife from little cups. Obviously, I had the wrong idea. Apparently, the week we were there was the week all of the animals took a sabbatical. Or a vacation to Canada. We did see a few miscellaneous animals in the distance. Not. One. Bear. Though. Unfortunately, it was also a very foggy day and there was some residual smoke from recent forest fires, so we missed a lot of the mountain views too, including the majestic Mount McKinley (which I think was renamed to Denali shortly after we left). If you noticed the etching on the window in the photo above, you can tell where Mount McKinley was supposed to be. All we could see was fog. Turns out that it had only been seen 3-4 times so far this summer. I wish I would have known those odds before I rode a bus for 8 hours!
Even though we didn’t see as much of the mountains or wildlife as we’d hoped, we did get a ton of good photos and enjoyed the cool features of the visitor center. My favorites there were the American flag flying high against the mountain view, that awesome handmade quilt, and the book in which someone sketches the view of Denali every single day. So awesome! My favorite part of the park was Polychrome Pass. I loved the variety of colors and textures there. As with all of of the Alaskan scenery, I feel like it was impossible to catch its true beauty in a photo.
The trip to the park and back and the long bus ride there proved to be very exhausting. We drove 4 hours there, rode 8 hours on the bus, and then drove 4 more hours back to our campsite. Not kidding. We were exhausted by the time we turned in for the night. We were already quite tired from making the journey to Alaska the day before. Nonetheless, the visit to the park was a great way to kick off our trip! And I’m happy to report that I didn’t get motion sickness on the bus – hooray!
Last week I shared a glimpse into our Kansas City trip, and I left out some valuable experiences. It’s pretty common that I enjoy the trip to somewhere just as much as I enjoy being there. The road to Nashville is where I found that lovely general store and many other of our fondest memories. This trip to Kansas City was no exception.
We left from Thanksgiving in Texas to make the trip north. I’d never been through Oklahoma or Kansas, so I was looking forward to taking in the scenery. I also had a goal of actually stopping and experiencing something in Oklahoma so that I could mark it on our map. Mission accomplished! I’m actually quite impressed that we get to mark off three new states after just one short weekend trip.
We made the trip via the Indian Nation Turnpike and I loved the scenery! I felt like this route gave us a true vision of the Oklahoma landscape, and I loved seeing the hills/mountains and the trees boasting the beautiful fall colors. As I gazed out into the horizon, I could easily imagine the Native Americans roaming about and buffalo traipsing the landscape. I felt like I was getting a tiny glimpse into American history. As we drove down the turnpike we came upon a sign that said “next exit 25 miles.” We quickly swerved for the exit that we were about to pass for a bathroom break. The Daisy Store in Daisy, Oklahoma was the one and only option at this exit, and it was just as you’d imagine any small town store to be. Locals were gathered around tables as they waited for the chicken tenders to finish frying, just behind the check out counter. There was one bathroom which resembled a tiny little closet in the back that Matthew and I had to share. There was only one water option in the cooler, which was quite different from the array of choices we usually see when we stop. They also had four padlocks on the door to lock the place up. The thing that stood out most to me was the gas wall heater that hung on the wall just outside the bathroom. This heater, and maybe others like it, appeared to be the only source of heat for the quaint little store. While I found it rather cozy, I also couldn’t help but imagine the liability at hand and chuckle because you’d never see something of the sort at a large truck stop these days. You’d think this ten minute experience from our trip wouldn’t make it to the blog, yet I look back on the Daisy Store with a smile. Further up the road, we began looking for a spot for lunch. We try to only eat local restaurants when we travel, so I began searching for options a bit early. This stretch though, was rather rural so I was having trouble finding a winner that wasn’t too far from our path. I did get a kick out of some of the reviews though. “A budget steak dinner” and “the last restaurant with a smoking section” just weren’t things that appealed to me. Finally, we came up on a diner and darted in for a quick bite. There were so many things about Angel’s Diner that I just loved. First, my Daddy’s favorite song by Don Williams was playing as we entered. This song always makes me smile with contentment and I knew right away that we’d come to the right place. The surroundings were decorated in 50s fashion just as you’d expect. The difference here, however, is that the place was immaculately clean and the entire staff was extremely friendly. Our server in particular, was outgoing and welcoming and enabled us to really enjoy our experience there. Matthew had the steak finger special and I had a burger. (They gave me extra pickles, so they’re a winner in my book.) The food was really tasty and although we didn’t have any pie, there was quite a selection of options made there at the restaurant. I loved the vibe of this place, the funny names on the menu, and the old country music that was playing. It really felt like a blast from the past, and it’s certainly a place I’d go back to. I haven’t mentioned yet that it’s been raining the entire trip so far and it’s also freezing cold. Therefore, all of these little pit stops require me to bundle up and try my best to stay dry as we come and go. Most of the time I wasn’t too successful in that feat, and I think heated car seats are the reason I didn’t end up with pneumonia. I think the dreariness of the day is important to mention, though, because we could have easily given up and driven through drive throughs to avoid the nasty weather. However, we’d have missed out on several awesome experiences that way. I think pointing out how gross the weather was is important because it’s a lesson to seize opportunities when you have them and to make the most of every situation, even freezing, rainy days in Oklahoma.
As we continued our trip, we made it to Iola, Kansas, a growing town that Matthew had actually written a report on once. This is where we first began seeing ice in the trees and on the ground, a site that we’d see for the rest of our time there. We stopped for gas and I got a cup of butterfinger coffee, which will go down in history as the first time I’ve ever gotten gas station coffee that I enjoyed. We also saw a sign for the “world’s largest town square” so we made a quick detour to see that. Whether it’s actually the world’s largest or not, I don’t know. However, I loved getting to drive around it and wouldn’t mind stopping to explore it more later.After Iola, we finished the trek to Kansas City and you can read more about that in last week’s post. The trek home wasn’t quite as packed with experiences as the ride up, and that could be because it was STILL raining and we were rather exhausted. We did stop at one gas station that had the largest selection of liquor/alcohol that I’ve ever seen under one roof. (Mind blowing.) We also attempted lunch at a place that seemed to be promising by its online profile. When we arrived, however, we were sorely disappointed and kept going. Their logo was a buzzard if that give you some perspective. Instead, we continued on and made a small detour to have Instant Karma Gourmet Hot Dogs. This place was much more “our style” and had a ton of interesting hotdogs to choose from. I loved that each table had a different set of fun S&P shakers on them. We ate and rested for a bit and then headed back out to finish our rainy drive home.
As usual, I look back on the trek to and from our destination as having some of the best experiences of the trip. It’s often these side excursions as we travel that I enjoy the most. I think that mindset can be applied to life in general, too. It’s often more about the journey than the destination, and in my opinion we can miss out of some of the most rewarding experiences by focusing too heavily on the destination.
“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It’s a direction, not a destination.” – Carl Rogers
Over Thanksgiving weekend, Matthew and I did a bit of traveling. First we headed out to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with his mom and family. Then, on Friday morning, we made the drive up to Kansas City. Many of our friends here don’t realize that Matthew actually graduated from high school at Blue Valley North in Kansas. This was his 10 year reunion so since Matthew hasn’t been back and I’ve never been, we decided to make the trip up together to explore.
To be honest, I really knew very little about Kansas or Kansas City before the trip. Matthew always has fond things to say of the city, yet I just imagined it as all farmland and plains. And tornadoes, of course. Before heading north, I didn’t even know that half of the city was in Kansas and the other half in Missouri. Silly me! There’s even a road, Stateline Road, where one side of the street is Kansas and the other Missouri. How fun…and confusing at the same time. I must say, despite my initial thoughts, Kansas City seems like a lovely town. We were only there for a short time so we didn’t get to explore near as much as we’d like. Guess we’ll have to go back!
One of my favorite experiences from the trip was a visit to the Nelson-Atkins museum. Matthew and I both love a good art museum, especially one with a good contemporary art section. I was blown away by just the size of this place! We spent a few hours there, exploring each section, without even quite finishing it before heading out for some lunch. One of my favorite parts of the museum was the 4 Seasons (check via pic) exhibit out front. I loved the mixed media used to create the sculptures and found the project fascinating. If you’re in the area, I’d highly recommend a visit. (You might even want to get there before the Thomas Hart Benton exhibit wraps up.)
After the museum we headed over to the famous Joe’s Kansas City (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s). We waited in line for well over an hour, a line that wrapped around the entire inside of the restaurant and even extended outside in the freezing, drizzly weather. Nonetheless, we waited. My theory is, if so many people are willing to stand and wait, the food must be good! Besides, we could smell the goodness as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. I can say with 100% certainty that it did not disappoint and was well worth the wait. Honestly, this was probably the best bbq that I’ve ever had. Ever. I enjoyed the famous Z Man and Matthew had the special, which was the burnt ends. Those, by the way, are only offered a few days a week and take a full 24 hours to prepare.
While waiting in line at Joe’s we met some new friends from Texas! Because the line was so lengthy, we had plenty of time to chat and make introductions. We ended up joining them at their table because seating was limited and it was a lot of fun making some new friends! I never meet a stranger, you know. Matthew and I also felt a bit like his Pappaw and Grandmother that we traveled to Alaska with. They’re always coming back from their travels with stories of meeting someone new and usually they stay in touch with them from then on out. Before long, I imagine that we’ll have acquaintances scattered about the country!
Another highlight from our trip was a visit to the Country Club Plaza. Basically, the Plaza is a large, outdoor mall that spans for blocks and blocks. It reminded me of an old downtown area, yet the stores are mostly new and modern. It was cold and rainy (again) so Matthew and I darted back and forth from store to store, trying to stay warm and dry. We were quite exhausted from our time at the museum earlier, so I really appreciated the husband being willing to stay on his feet a bit longer to shop with me. Since it’s the holiday time, the Plaza was all lit up with Christmas lights and the ambiance was just lovely. Had we not been quite so tired, I think we could have spent hours there. Maybe next time.
Other than Joe’s, which was easily our favorite restaurant, we also really liked McCoy’s downtown. The atmosphere there was relaxing and easy going and Matthew and I slipped right in for some late night bites. They’re pretty famous for their mac n cheese so we tried that, and my favorite was the skillet dip. (I’m pretty much a fan of anything you dip a tortilla chip into.) The drinks there were tasty, and I’d love to go back for another peach tea cocktail. If you’re roaming around downtown, I’d suggest popping in for a bit.
Another favorite experience of the trip was our many rides with Uber. Seriously, Uber. I love you. I’d used the service a few times back in Mobile and this was our first time to really take advantage of it. Even though we had a car with us, it was soooo much more convenient to request a car and have it pick us up and drop us off right at the door. No hassle of parking. No walking across gigantic parking lots in the freezing cold and no reading maps. Instead, we’d request a car from the app on my phone. Someone would show up within mere minutes and take us to the next destination. You can track the location of the car from the app which was sort of fun. All drivers are background checked, and it’s much quicker/cleaner/less expensive than a cab. My favorite part is that you get a text with your drivers rating and you get the opportunity to rate them after the ride too. I’ll admit…I’m a new Uber fan. All the way.
Even though this was a quick (and very rainy) trip, Matthew and I still enjoyed ourselves. At first I thought we might freeze to death because there was ice still left everywhere from a bit of freezing rain the day before. Somehow we stayed relatively dry and warm though. I think we’re definitely going to plan a trip back soon, because there’s still so much of Kansas City to be seen. Do you have any fun suggestions on what to do on the next trip? We’d love to hear your suggestions!
Matthew and I recently went to The Great Mississippi River Balloon Race and the Angola Rodeo with our friends, the Wootens. Matthew and I both love their daughters Ava and Ila dearly and we enjoyed hanging out and spending time with them over the weekend. I took a ton of photos, of course, so I thought I’d share a bit about our fun weekend. We traveled to Natchez early Saturday morning and planned to enjoy the festival while waiting on the balloons to fly. We checked out the craft vendors, ate carnival food, flew kites, and listened to live music. We rode rides with the kids. (When I say “we,” I mean Matthew and the others. This girl does not ride rides…motion sickness and migraine city for me. Matthew actually waited in line for over an hour to ride the Ferris wheel with Ava…so sweet!)
Unfortunately, the balloons didn’t get to fly even once because it was too windy. Not even once! Of course, it was for the safety of the operators. However, it was a bummer to not get to see the balloons at all. Maybe next year! After wrapping up at the balloon fest and having dinner at The Camp, we drove down to St. Francisville to stay for the night. If you’re not familiar with Louisiana, St. Francisvillle is home to a multitude of very old plantation homes, many of which have been converted into bed & breakfasts. Just imagine tree-lined driveways, glorious, old homes, and acres of beautiful scenery. Matthew and I stayed at Greenwood Plantation and although we didn’t get to stay in the plantation home, we did get a quick tour before heading to the rodeo. I loved seeing the large rooms full of old furniture and an abundance of character. The trees out front were simply lovely and I could have spent hours walking about. If you’d like to take a step back in time, I highly recommend a visit to the St. Francisvillle area! On Sunday, we attended the famous Angola Rodeo, and I was nothing short of blown away. That rodeo is quite an operation! I had mixed feelings about the concept of a prison rodeo. However, the fact that this large institution completely supports itself, grows its own food and livestock, and even helps provides sustenance to other prisons, is simply amazing. I left the rodeo completely intrigued and spent most of the ride home looking up facts about the Angola system. I could literally write a book report on it at this point!
All in all, it was a very fun weekend. Matthew and I enjoyed spending time with our dear friends and came home rather exhausted. Since we didn’t get to see the balloons, I’m thinking we’ll have to plan to return next year! Maybe you can join us!
Whenever we first started speaking of going to Alaska, everyone talked about how beautiful it is. We heard things like, “it’s simply gorgeous everywhere you turn.” Or, “there’s no place like it on the world.” I definitely expected Alaska to be beautiful. I also knew that I wouldn’t fully understand how beautiful until I saw it myself. The first time that I was taken away by its beauty on our trip was our drive down the infamous Turnagin Arm.
We left Wasilla early that morning in route to Seward, Alaska. Seward is a quaint little fishing town that boasts all of the features you’d imagine…a beautiful, rocky bay with water crashing up onto its edges, boats galore, and an adorable little seaside shopping area. Fresh fish was pretty abundant for purchase and I imagine the locals eating fresh halibut in the way that we grab some catfish here in North Louisiana. For this little excursion, we pulled the camper with us, which I’ll remind you is quite a setup…fireplace included. We stayed right on the waters edge and “dry camped.” In case you’re unfamiliar, dry camping means you don’t have water or electricity hookups. I’m as surprised as you are. In all seriousness, we had enough water in the tank for the basics and had the generator to use for a bit. At first I was a bit nervous about the concept and adjusted quickly. After all, it was much too beautiful and temperate there to really need much more than a place to lay my head.
That evening I enjoyed grilled halibut for the first time, and even though I thoroughly expected to not like it, it turned out to be rather delicious. If there’s one area of personal growth that I’ve developed in lately, it would be in my appetite. I’ve made a point to try new things (and old things that I didn’t previously enjoy) and I’ve really branched out quite a bit.
The next morning, Matthew and I made the trek down to the Alaska SeaLife Center. It was smaller than I’d imagined and still entertaining. I honestly could have sat and watched the sea lions for hours on end. I have probably 30 videos of them on my phone. I also really enjoyed all of the vibrant art they had for sale there. If I had a larger suitcase and plenty of money, I would have probably came home with quite a few pieces. I did snag an adorable piece done by painting the bottom of a puffins feet and letting them run around. I think it’s adorable and I’m happy to have it hanging in my entry way.
After the sea life center, we spent just a bit wandering through the shops downtown. It’s little downtown area was simply adorable and I could have definitely spent hours there. We stumbled upon an awesome souvenir shop here and grabbed a quick lunch and coffee. If you’re looking for a great place to get souvenirs in Alaksa, I’d highly recommend Seward. There were so many great shops!
While in Seward, we also visited Exit Glacier. This was my first glacier to see of the trip and it was quite fascinating! The hike up to the glacier was lovely and we got good views of the surrounding mountains. The bugs were a bit fierce at one point, and I didn’t give up! The trek to Seward was one of the most beautiful experiences of our trip. We saw eagles galore (you can see one in its nest if you look closely in that tree photo), seven swans, and our first moose (and the only one with antlers that we saw). The waters were the most beautiful teal color and not a bit murky. The mountains were beautifully snow-capped. The drive in and the visit around Seward, was a textbook picture of what you’d expect in Alaska. The views were breathtaking and I’ll never forgot its majesty. As I look back and dream about Alaska, this part of the trip will be one that I remember most fondly.
It had been three years since I’d been to a beach and seven years since I’d been somewhere with my very best friends. I had been looking forward to that quick trip for months. I couldn’t wait to laugh and joke and reminisce. You see, these are my girls. These are my ride or die…the chicks I’d do anything for and fight for without reason. They’re the ones with which I say anything and am my true self. As we age, I don’t see them nearly enough and the chance to spend just a few short days with them was a dream come true.
The agenda was simple – nothing was on the agenda. All of us wanted nothing more than to just sit. We wouldn’t wear makeup and washing your hair was optional. We even picked up a few groceries to have at the condo so we didn’t even have to get dressed to go eat. It was funny because we each remarked over how much different this trip was than the last one we took. Actually, it’s rather amazing how much things can change in just seven years.
As I sat along the beach, I thought about what makes this place so lovely. I love the cool breeze blowing so that it’s warm but still cool enough to be comfortable. I love the sound of the waves crashing on to the beach; it’s just loud enough to mask most of the other nearby sounds. It’s as if you’re in your own little world even though other people are all around. The chance to sit and just be and the chance to read or reminisce are all reasons to love this place.
I definitely don’t just sit enough. Instead, I’m always working towards something. Even if I’m “off,” I’m thinking or planning for the next big thing. Sitting and reading without a purpose and chatting for hours with my best friends are not activities that I get to enjoy often. The chance to decompress and reconnect with my friends was much appreciated. As I drove home from this lovely weekend, I realized how rested and relaxed I felt. As much as I think I “rest,” I realized that I don’t actually rest near enough. This weekend with my friends was rest.
I wish I could share with you exciting descriptions of the adventures we took. However, unless you’d like to hear about how many times I laughed during Mindy Kaling’s — or excessive, flowery details about what a nap on the beach is like, then I don’t really have much to share. I could tell you how lovely it is to not even pull your makeup from its case for an entire weekend. I could stretch the truth and say that my wild, untamed hair looked like perfect, magazine-worthy beach waves. (That would be the case for Amanda. Me? Not so much.) Instead, I’ll just say that it was a fantastic trip full of ample R&R and lots of laughs for everyone. Realizing that seven years passed all too quickly without this time together, we made a commitment to do this annually from now on. It’s good for everyone and let’s face it…these are my girls and I love them.