Lead to Hot Water Hills by a Reiki

It was time to venture into Arkansas! Even though the temperatures were easing up only slightly in Dallas, I’d been dreaming of taking a bath in some natural springs. I thought the Hot Springs National Park was the obvious venture, but I’d soon find out all you’d find there were some cool bath houses with fancy spa packages – not exactly the hidden adventure I’d expected. Fortunately, there was still plenty of adventure to be made!

After an early start to get on the road, we headed to the Arkansas Post National Memorial. While mostly another battle site, it also offered some great views of the Arkansas River, which had once been a famous trading post. I’d not explored much nature in Arkansas, but this was a great introduction.

Next stop was one of America’s most iconic stops, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. While the high school is pretty much an average high school, the history behind it was amazing to revisit. As the building most known for our country’s desegregation, it was really touching to get a closer look at the Little Rock Nine – the students who went through the hardship of this necessary education equal rights.

This National Park site was honestly the one we scoured the most. I wanted every detail and enjoyed the personal stories so much. Even if you’ve heard of the (in)famous nine in passing, following their journeys in detail through the years was much more eye-opening. In class you think of this education desegregation as one day, when in reality just this event took years.

It was time to head to the Hot Springs and we were pretty excited. Even though we wouldn’t get to bathe in healing waters in the wild, after arriving we found ourselves in a run-in with a karmic Reiki healer who lead us to a “pure natural source that hadn’t been tarnished by the rusting underground pipes” where I quickly filled up my whole water bottle. He kept talking about the energy he felt and how he swore his body felt stronger, and I couldn’t help but think we were just as enchanted as they’d been years ago when the Springs had claimed to heal all sorts of terminal diseases.

We took a quick tour of the old bath houses, but after our authentic healer-taught experience by an actual spring, the commercialized spas and large bath houses just weren’t as impressive. Luckily for us, that night was the annual Hot Water Hills Festival, which was sure to offer us more of the strange and mystic.

They’d set up the festival in the middle of the town square, putting up lots of local craft and artisans, delightful food trucks, and a score of live bands. It was a lot of fun to look at everything and y’all with the locals. I certainly looked at close to a thousand crystals and enjoyed sipping my blueberry-infused draft beer. The music was pretty great too, and you could tell people were enjoying letting their “weird” out more than usual.

After an eventful night with a hard rest, we got on the road and headed to our last stop before home – President Clinton’s birth home. It was kind of weird to us that this little house was a National Park site, but we checked out Clinton’s family photos and headed on our way.

No matter what I go in expecting, I’m never let down by these adventures! I may not always get what I picture, but I always find something new and unique to experience. At this point I’ve hit a lot of National Parks site and I can’t wait to see where I’m going next!

Even a Wandering Heart has a Home

Every now and then – however rare – I truly do enjoy being a homebody. I definitely love to take time to recharge and escape everyone for a little while. Recently, quite a few trips have been canceled – postponed hopefully – so I’ve taken the time to reorganize my life and try and spend more time hibernating. Luckily, I truly love my space!

My house is a little odd in that it’s set up shotgun style. This means there are no hallways and every room leads to the next in a straight line. So when you open the front door, you’re in the living room, open that door, you’re in the bedroom, open that door, you’re in the kitchen, and you get it.

My living room is decorated in earth tones, with lots of greens and browns. There’s a lot of windows, which I love to open, and with all the plants (real and fake), it’s like being in an outdoor space. Besides being big enough to host several people, it’s also got my writing desk – so I can do my two favorite activities in this room!

I love pillows! I’m weird in that even though I don’t really use them except for lounging (which I don’t do too much), I love having every surface covered in pillows. Having fresh flowers and a book by my bed is also a must!

Where I lived before, I didn’t have a closet so I got used to organizing my clothes in a boudoir and this bench me and my dad made. My room colors are grey and yellow, which I think is pretty relaxing but still fun. You can also see the jewelry organizer I made forever ago that has been so helpful for all my earring studs.

I am a cat person. I have one cat, but people know how much I love her so I’ve gotten a lot of cat-themed gifts over the years. This lead me to turn my kitchen into a cat-chen. (Woo, puns!) You can also see my pantry where I try to organize all my whole foods.

My fridge collects not only important notices and friends’ wedding invites, but all my travel magnets!

My bathroom is pretty small, but I still have room for fresh flowers so I’m happy! Originally I had wanted the walls a pale pink color, but that was not what I got. After just going through and painting the whole room this more electric pink, I got a new grandma shower curtain to subdue the overall effect.

If you can’t tell by now, I really love storage and organization! I like everything in my home to have it’s place and I’m pretty particular about how things look. Since the bathroom is pretty small, I took off the closet door and created open shelf storage.

Finally, my media room! It gathers all my entertainment, mostly movies and liquor. The tv isn’t pictured because I just got anew one (won a 65in at the work Christmas party!), but I love lounging in here to watch movies when I have time. It also makes for a cozy movie night!

I’m pretty social so I don’t get to spend as much time at home as I sometimes would like. But when I am home, I love it! It’s been so fun living alone for almost two years, I was glad to decorate an entire house exactly to my tastes. But, I’m also excited to have a roommate again!

I’m kind of a “try everything once” type of girl, so I’m glad I can cross home decor off my list. It’ll be nice to have company again though, and I’m sure the social energy will keep me home even more! Hope you enjoyed this peek into my life!

Darker Side of the City

We had about fourteen hours left in Los Angeles and we were ready to make the most of it. We left the Airbnb early and with our backpacks strapped on, we embarked on our touristy finale. First stop: the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Wanting to beat the crowds, I’d planned this for the morning. But without all the people, it just looked really dirty. There were also so many souvenir shops, it began to feel really cheap and comical. I was glad no mob mentality would force me into a spending frenzy.

Then we headed over to the Original Farmer’s Market in the Grove. There was so much food and everything smelled so good it took us at least half an hour just to decide what to have (I did breakfast crepe with fresh squeezed strawberry juice – yum!). We walked around a bit, had some waffle cup espresso shots, bought cool sunglasses, and window shopped one of the trendiest areas in the city.

Deciding it was time for some culture to escape the materialism pit, we started on our museum journey. We explored the outdoor exhibits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I especially loved the light posts area because of the perfectly placed columns in perfect rows. Not only did it please my orderly mindset, it was fun to have so much Singing-in-the-Rain dancing.

As a fan of true crime podcasts, I’d heard of the special Museum of Death that had just opened up and thought it’d be interesting. Did I think it would be fun? Unsure. But spoiler alert, it wasn’t. As much into horror and true crime I am, looking up close at so much death was just disturbing. I sped though the more graphic exhibits and honestly spent a lot of it just trying to make it to the end.

It was a relief to make it back outside. I was glad our next few hours would be exploring a fun area in the sun. Olvera Street was our next destination, and being familiar with Mexico, it really was like a little town in the middle of downtown LA. A short walk away we headed to Little Tokyo! The city really is a little hodgepodge of every culture – no where else can you walk from Mexico to Japan and get a very authentic experience.

Little Tokyo really brightened us up, everything was so cute and colorful! We were still trying to shake some of the darker city honesty of the morning off us after having spent a lot of the previous day convening with nature. Our backs were starting to hurt a bit because of our backpacks so with some extra time from speeding through the previous museum, we even went to the famous Pink’s. The line was long but we had to! I got fries and Jenna said the hot dogs were worth it. Plus, all the different food was a big mood booster!

It was time to head to another country – I mean LA area – the Venice Canals! Walking through the streets was so crazy! It really was so beautiful and surprising in the middle of such a populated city. The sun was setting fast, but we had a nice evening stroll through the waterways and over the cute bridges.

We rented bikes again and made our way back to Santa Monica Pier as our final event. We’d loved our nature day so much, we wanted to get back near the beach. Seeing the packed pier at night was also a new experience! Everything really felt like a fair. We got ice cream and hit on by some skater teenagers so it was like stepping into the past in a way.

It was a perfect way to end what had turned out to be a bit of a darker day than I’d originally intended. It was kind of great too in a way, because it felt like we had the full Los Angeles treatment – the nature and the urban, the good and the ugly!

Seeking Nature in a City

With vague ideas of moving to California sometime in the foreseeable future, I knew it was time to visit LA. When my friend Jenna found a round trip flight for under $100 perfectly aligned to our work weekend – we jumped at a two day Los Angeles trip. We would arrive early morning Friday and head out on a redeye late Saturday night. Knowing we didn’t have a lot of time and would only be taking a carry-on backpack, I planned a packed schedule to try and hit every major tourist area of LA.

The first day was devoted to all the nature we could explore in one of the biggest cities in America. Since the airport isn’t far from the beach, we got off the plane and headed straight to Venice Beach. It was pretty early on a weekday morning so not too many people were out. We walked along the pier looking for coffee and breakfast and accidentally picked up an overly friendly stray who’d just woken up on a park bench. After losing him and recharging we rented bikes to stroll along Venice Beach, checking out Muscle Beach and several iconic skatepark areas.

More and more people were popping up as our ride progressed. A fun and easy thirty minutes later we were at the Santa Monica pier, enjoying the souvenir booths, the Ferris wheel, and dipping our feet into the freezing waters. Originally we had wanted to swim, but it was much colder than we’d expected so we rolled up our pants and walked along the shoreline, watching the tourists who’d come from all over the world.

We were so close it didn’t feel right not to check out Malibu, so we continued our beach exploration after a quick Uber ride north up the coast. The sand was so clean and the nearby shops so much fancier, we felt like we could see a celebrity at any moment. (My hope was Miley Cyrus since her song Malibu had just hit the airwaves.) We sprawled along the beach, enjoying the weather warming up and the overall relaxed atmosphere away from the crowds.

Next we were on our way to our Airbnb in West Hollywood, but of course we had to get a taste of the infamous LA traffic. We got in the car and literally didn’t move for forty-five minutes. Our Uber driver had to stop our ride because he ran out of time on his lunch break. We got out to walk past a majority of the traffic and then we’re finally on our way. It was insane!

After cleaning off the beach on us, we headed to Runyon Canyon. I’d tried to figure out a way to get close to the Hollywood sign off a trail, but it was harder than I thought with no guide. Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely hike through the hills, superzoomed to get our snap of the sign, and ran into our own meditation coach right as the sunset across the valley.

Once it was dark (and our minds had been cleared and calmed) we headed for dinner at a trendy spot nearby. Then it was on to the Griffith Observatory because what else is there to do at night? Look at the stars, of course!

When we got there they had several of their massive telescopes out on the grounds, knowing their usual two wouldn’t satisfy the masses. We peeked at a great magnification of Saturn, clearly seeing the rings and nearby stars. It was incredible looking through the telescope at the real thing, because as we get older I tend to think we forget how impressive “every day” things are around us. They say stop and smell the roses, but I say stop and relearn things you forgot from Elementary school.

The museum inside the observatory is pretty cool too. Besides the usual how-stars-are-made infographics, there were interesting star charting facts and an original Tesla coil – which they turned on and everything! And when you’re at Griffith, you can’t only look up but have to look out because a lot of the best cityscape views are there.

Overall, there was a lot of nature to discover in this city. It had also been such a great experience to connect with the people of the city, who seem very open and oddly spiritual. So the next time you’re at the top of the world, the sun is making its descent, and you’ve had a full day converging with nature, go ahead and follow along on the loud stranger’s meditation.

Hiking with Hives

So I’m just going to say it. I have chronic urticaria.

Since I was diagnosed shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I have been very self-conscious about it and have hidden it as much as I could. For years, I’ve pretended I didn’t have it. Tried to will it away, avoided situations where I knew I would probably have a reaction, and disparaged when it came during social situations with no explanation.

It’s an autoimmune disorder where my body thinks something is wrong and produces histamines to inform the body. Basically my body is like “oh, shit!” and produces hives pretty much daily with varying degrees and it’s been going on for almost a decade.

The most frustrating part about it is that after seeing many doctors and specialists, the best they can give me is that statistically it tends to disappear one day (though if it lasts more than five years you’ll probably have it forever) and all they can do is continually pump me with medications to try and control it.

Starting college with daily uncontrollable hives sucked. The medications did not work and made my hives even more unpredictable as well as tended to raise them into welts instead of just red blemishes. I didn’t know why my body had suddenly gone out of control and along with it my emotions. When my body is weak, my hives get worse, and my mood dips as a side effect. Depression and anxiety are major consequences of chronic urticaria – which are two things I’ve never felt I had. I was hitting lows for the first time in my life.

Within a year, I dropped all medication and began to try and find my own solution. I scoured online message boards but that wasn’t much help because every case is so different. Part of the problem with this disease is everyone’s story is unique. And we all just want answers.

I read up more and more on nutrition, on health, on being better to my body. Sometimes the studies make me a little crazy (there’s chemicals in pretty much everything) and often I feel hopeless because I add one more non-solution to the list, but then I had a revelation.

I couldn’t hold myself back anymore.

It’s not my fault that the cold, the heat, the stress, the whatever has given me a reaction. I have to accept it’s going to happen, and be more open about it. It might be hard to understand, but at the end of the day the one who most cared about it was me. Starting to share my disease this year has been hard but I’ve learned no one is going to fault me for something out of my control.

So I’m starting 2018 with a public proclamation in hopes that I can be more open about my disease. I’ve passed up on too much in fear of appearing like a monster. But I want to get outdoors. I want to experience life. My urticaria wants me to be at a perfect homeostasis at all times, but that’s just impossible. If I’m not sweating a little, playing in the snow, or just generally doing all the things I want to try, I’m letting it win.

So there it is. A lot of my new experiences in the past year have caused my skin to react. Many trips I took in 2017 I had to deal with itchy, uncomfortable hives that threatened to bring down my mood. Major reactions happened in Whitesands, Chickasaw, Belize, and LA. But I can’t let it stop me. I want to be open about this and start fully embracing the way it is.

I have chronic urticaria and that’s life.

Bad Luck is Based on Perspective

After blowing a tire twenty minutes from home at the start of a day trip, I was prepared for anything that would happen next. We’d gotten three hours behind schedule because of the forced car change, but me, Jenna, and Gian were finally on our way.

We stopped for coffee in Wichita Falls, saw a sign for the “World’s Littlest Skyscraper” and even as we got more behind schedule, allowed a secondary pit stop to check it out. It was cute, but pretty much just a narrow two-story building. We continued on our way to our official first stop: the Route 66 National Museum.

It was a little hokey, mostly outdated, but overall enjoyable to check out the historic highway (we’d find ourselves on this road a lot, you’ll see). Our main goal on this trip was to finish our first state on the National Parks list – Oklahoma! No better way to celebrate trips than appreciate the most iconic highway in America.

Still behind schedule, we got to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site with no time to really explore. Which turned out okay by me, because it was really just an open field where Native Americans were caught unaware and attacked. So while the prairie lands are pretty, it’s still a bit of a sad memorial. No time for hiking, so on to the next stop.

It was back to Texas for us, headed to the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument which was paired with the nearby Lake Meredith. Our winding road through this area was a beautiful (somewhat treacherous in the smaller car) ride. Texas sure has a lot of different landscapes and it was a nice day. We did a bit of hiking at Alibates, short trails with big sunflower beds.

Lake Meredith wasn’t exactly the most picturesque lake, but there were lots of families enjoying the water so it was relaxing. After watching lots of full picnic tables, we remembered because of how behind schedule we were, we hadn’t stopped for food in our mad dash across state lines to pick up all three National Parks stamps. We dried off our feet, and headed back into town for something to eat.

We stopped for local Tex-Mex, enjoying the evening on the patio eating salsa and getting our energy back. Gian, who was familiar with the area, mentioned that Cadillac Ranch was nearby and worth a stop. So, after a day of rocky mishaps and easygoing itineraries, we decided we might as well check it out before heading home.

Not being super into cars, I wasn’t prepared for what this Ranch was supposed to offer. Giant Cadillacs stuck in a row covered in spray paint wasn’t exactly what first came to mind. But it quickly became my favorite part of the day! Tate weather was turning bad so lots of people cleared out and left behind lots of spray cans up for grabs.

Not minding the light drizzle, we crawled all over the cars and sprayed what we could. Everything became unintelligible because of the layers and layers of color and mismatched patterns. It was unexpectedly delightful being seemingly out in the middle of nowhere with big machinery to crawl on and add art to.

It started storming so we headed home in the rain and in the dark. It was weird, thinking about how many things had gone wrong for the day. The busted tire, the racing time, the depressing battlefield, the rain – but it had been such a great day! I truly think “bad luck” is just a perspective.

Holiday Reason

Christmas time always reminds me of my childhood, as I’m sure it does for most people. I loved the house smelling like cinnamon and pine, I loved wishing for snow (and usually never getting it in Dallas), and having lots of time off to spend time with family.

It’s much harder to have as much free time in the winter as I did as a kid. There’s also a whole lot more than I ever realized to do. When you’re a kid you might set out to decorate the tree, make gingerbread houses, and watch the stop motion holiday classics. Now as an adult, my priorities and traditions are much different.

Ice Skating

I love ice skating in general, but something about doing it around a 40 foot tree makes it all the more magical. Living in Dallas, it’s hard to find “winter” to celebrate the holiday. But going ice skating at the Galleria is pretty close. It’s cold, it’s festive, and usually for beginners or experts.

That’s why it’s one of my favorite activities to invite a bunch of friends to! This year I went with two coworkers I’ve grown very close to over the year – Jenna and Gian. We usually have a coffee shop night together, so getting out and working our muscles instead of our brains was really great.

Jingle Ball Concert

Ah, my one accidental (and amazingly lucky) tradition for Christmas! Three years ago when I was a bartender, I was checking out local cheap things to do in December when I learned about the KissFM Jingle Ball concert. It was the following night, tickets were dirt cheap at twenty-five bucks each with a pretty good lineup, and me and my friend Sarah had the night off. Fourteen hours before it started, I grabbed two tickets.

Obviously, we had a blast! Since then the lineup has gotten more and more insane, the venue upgraded, and thanks to Sarah’s insane luck she’s won tickets every year since! It’s our night to wear Christmas-themed dresses, put lights in our hair, and remind myself how much liquor we can handle. Once we’re cute and toasted, we sing the night away.

Tea for Two

My mom had been talking about some fancy mother daughter tea for months. When I say months, I’m not exaggerating. She kept reminding me of our reservations and making sure I had it in my calendar so I didn’t leave town. Then the week of arrived and she asked if I would be wearing a dress. I said, “If you want me to… I have a red velvet one I can wear that’s Christmas-y.” Next thing I know she’s showing up in a red velvet pantsuit and we’re on our way to a Historic Dallas mansion (the Alexander) to have festive holiday tea.

Everything was so adorable! The tea was a special lavender earl grey with cinnamon, which tasted like Christmas. There were little snacks perfect for having a fancy tea. It was all really tasty. Afterward, we all went upstairs to check out some holiday-themed boutiques. It was such a cute mother daughter day to celebrate the season.

The Nutcracker

Two quick things about me: I love ballet and I love Tchaikovsky. It only makes sense that The Nutcracker is an obvious way to celebrate the holiday season. This year I decided we would do something a little different and not go to the local production. I got my family tickets to the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth to see the Texas Ballet Theater’s version.

It was really great! The dancers seemed more specialized to the specific characters and the scenery was really well done. They also used wires for flying objects and dancers which made it pretty magical since we were up on the Mezzanine level. My brother’s fiancé had never been to a ballet either, so it was really great showing my love for The Nutcracker to someone new to it all.

It’s a Wonderful Life

I really love this movie. I love it so much I force my entire family to watch it Christmas Eve night. It is the one tradition I force on my family and I have zero shame about. This movie, besides having the great Jimmy Stewart starring in it, is everything I love about trying to life a fulfilled life. And mainly how it’s the connections you make and the people you love (and those who love you) that make life worth it.

All this to say, I hope everyone has a great holiday. Spend it with loved ones, spend it trying new things, and spend it enjoying your passions. Bring a bottle of booze to your closest friends, bundle up to keep enjoying the outdoors, try and keep your patience with those trying family members, and allow yourself a little relaxation.

Merry Christmas!