Around Austin

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to Austin, Texas. I always heard a lot of good things about the city, and I imagined it’d be the Berkley of Texas (and the only part of Texas I had any real interest going to). I didn’t know much about the city, except that there would probably be live music, tacos and barbecue. Oh, and Whip It was filmed there.

I like to be prepared when I travel and I have shelves of travel books full of places I have and haven’t yet been. On one hand, I think being in a place that’s unknown is exciting and good for me at times, but I quickly turn anxious and scared when I’m in a place that is 100% unfamiliar. I had picked up this tiny Austin guide book a few months ago. Once I got it home and read through the first couple of pages, I was confused… this wasn’t a guide book at all! I put it down and forgot about it for a while. As the trip approached, I started to realize that I was going to need to do SOME research in order to know my way around town, so I tried out the book one more time. What I found in this teeny tiny book blew my mind. There are short stories, which I had originally thought were super-corny, that were some of the best writing I’ve ever read. I’d even encourage someone who isn’t going to Austin to read those stories, because they are that good! There were a handful of names on where to eat, where to shop, etc, but they required a little extra research. As I approached my trip, I knew what restaurants I wanted to eat in, the best bookshop in town, and I had a pretty good idea of how to get around town.

The first day of the trip was mostly travel. We landed in overcast, super-humid weather and then headed out for some drinks at a super cute neighborhood bar, The Beer Plant. Their vegan platter was super tasty and the rose hit the spot! We were staying in Tarrytown, a more well-off neighborhood, and everyone in the restaurant was part of a large group, most people had kids, and everyone was dressed in a very trendy bohemian style.

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The next day was our SXSW workshop, the reason why we were in Austin. I wanted to grab breakfast beforehand, but as a pulled up to Nau’s Enfield Drug I started getting panicked texts from the team. I told myself I’d stop in really quick, but I kept getting more anxious as time went on. The inside of Nau’s was much shabbier than I expected, with sparse shelves and worn down… everything. I ordered an omelet from two befuddled college kids and scarfed it down even though it wasn’t very good. The best part though was when I asked for the best directions to get to the Convention Center and everyone working (all 4 people) popped up and chipped in their two cents with the best way to get downtown. I was hilarious in a “is this really happening?” kind of way and totally amazed me how friendly people could be. I think more than I realized at the time, I was pretty stressed out. Totally out of character, that day I ended up getting a bunch of canker sores on my tongue and hives on my skin. In a major way I was glad that the workshop was over and I could try to enjoy the rest of my time in Austin!

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It downpoured all day, but that night I went to dinner at a popular BBQ restaurant, Stubb’s. It was packed and the service wasn’t great, but a picture of Barack Obama at Stubb’s greeted us at the door and we had a feeling we weren’t going to be disappointed. The interior was pretty cute, with spruced-up shanty look. The food came on metal trays and my hard cider came in a tall can. My brisket and sides were pretty good, but I wasn’t super keen on my ribs or pulled pork, both tasted pretty dry and not very smoky.

The next day was my first day without worrying about work and I really made it count! I woke up early, bundled up (it was one of the coldest days Austin had all winter! We were really unlucky with the weather while we were there) and headed to Jo’s Coffee in downtown Austin. I’ll admit it now… I went to Jo’s Coffee two mornings in a row. I ordered a coffee, an orange juice and two potato breakfast tacos both days. The interior of Jo’s was very cute, with cute furniture and great music, but it got very crowded. The first day I got there early enough to snag a spot at the counter where I read the newspaper and devoured the best breakfast tacos of my life. They were just eggs, cheese and potatoes, but they blew my mind! The second morning I went to Jo’s I chatted with a Jo’s Coffee regular Austinite and let her go ahead of me in line because stupid SXSW hipsters were taking over her town. She told me that she and her friends didn’t really mind, because everything in town for SXSW made Austin feel more like a real city to them.

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After a long morning of sessions, and getting to hear Christina Tosi speak (!!!), I took one of my longest walks of my trip to a neighborhood called South Congress. It was definitely a really fun, eclectic neighborhood with great restaurants and colorful signage. I wish I had had more time to browse the shops, but I mostly wandered until I found something good to eat. I stumbled across June’s on accident. It was on my list of places to go, but I had thought it was in a different neighborhood. The adorable patio really drew me in, with the bright blue bistro chairs, faux marble table tops, and tiny succulents. The wait staff was so genuinely sweet and attentive and my croque madame was pretty darn tasty! After taking a million pictures and thoroughly enjoying my meal (though it ended up being pretty chilly outside!) I went inside to pay and saw… Christina Tosi! So now I know that we have the same taste in restaurants and we’re basically meant to be BFF’s forever.

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I headed back towards downtown but really wished I could’ve explored South Congress just a little more! Here are a few pictures of the neighborhood…

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Later that evening I took a walk to Book People because I love checking out book stores in other cities. It was a large store, but it felt fairly empty and somewhat generic. I left with a few magazines for the flight and a tiny toiletry bag with the definition of feminism printed on the outside 🙂

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The next day I took another long walk from my final session to 24 Diner for lunch, which was another place that was on my list. They were packed and the interior was adorable, modern, but also retro. I managed to snag a seat at the counter, and another newspaper! The bartender/my server wasn’t particularly friendly, but he was super attentive and brought my the best fried chicken and gravy that I’d eaten in a LONG time. It was an excellent lunch and definitely a place I’d go back to again!

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Summing Up SXSW 2017

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from SXSW. I’ve known a few people who have gone, but only for the music or the film portions. I was worried that the conference might be uptight or schmoozy, but it really didn’t feel that way to me!

I spent most of my time on subjects that mattered to me, like food and fashion, and saw so many truly badass, super powerful women speak. Every. Single. Session tied back to social media. Everyone is using social media to get their message out there and engaging with new audiences! Every session I attended reassured me that what I do, and what I’m most passionate about, IS important and is truly groundbreaking.

Saturday

3:30 The Smart Kitchen: Cooking Better with Technology

Lisa Fetterman from Nomiku was a super high energy, fun and sassy speaker. I learned so much about sous vide! Sous vide is growing faster in adoption than microwaves and color television. Her idea behind sous vide is to provide people with ready to make meals as well, just like the microwave.

She got some pretty harsh questions about how expensive the products are (about $250) but the panelist from IDEO said that we should be focusing on what’s actually good for you, good food that’s healthy is actually cheap (rice, beans, greens) and food that’s expensive (meat) isn’t as good for you. If people buy a sous vide, they’re actually saving both time and money because they’re eating out less and eating healthier because it’s home-cooked.

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5:00 The Urbanization of Beer, Wine & Spirits

Many people think of breweries, distilleries and wineries to be located outside of cities (after Prohibition, most alcohol fled the cities), but many companies are changing this. It’s harder to get customers to stop in when you’re located in the middle of nowhere, like a rural destination for wine tasting or a brewery tour. Rent is more expensive and permits are harder to come by in cities, but it’s worth it to build a community where everyone is comfortable stopping in and trying something new. City locations are pushing them to be more creative, the culture is young and vibrant, and drinkers want to know more about the alcohol that they’re enjoying.

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Sunday

9:30 Community Comes First: the New Retail Norm

I stood in a line that wrapped around the block for this one! I was most interested in hearing from the Pinterest representative, but Under Armor and a online retail store were there too. With Instagram, the community is very engaging. You don’t need to know the people you follow, but you will meet up with them in person because you feel like you know them. The Pinterest community is mostly online networking only, but it generates ideas and creativity. Facebook is a small community of friends and family, and influencers don’t work here.

It’s important to look for shared interests and goals in your community, give them something of value. Networks are great for feedback, but keep in mind that the most vocal member isn’t always the most important voice to listen to (aka trolls). If you use influencers, they have to relate to the brand. A lot of influencers don’t work because it feels empty, they don’t feel like the brand. It’s more about the quality of the influencer than quantity of their followers.

11:00 Courageous Creativity: Dreaming and Doing

Oh my she was so cute, and she got a standing ovation at the end! I almost skipped this one, but it ended up being my favorite session of all. I don’t consider myself a creative person, but after watching her speak, I realized I’m probably holding myself back.

  • Images- Use Pinterest or bulletin boards to generate ideas.
  • Surround yourself by people you trust
  • Create conditions for creativity. Look at your patterns- when do you feel most creative? Recreate that!
  • Laughter + play = brilliance. Some of her best ideas came from when she was goofing off.
  • Show people your ideas and they will likely say yes. Tell people and they will likely say no. The idea shes the most proud of is 29 rooms.
  • Don’t put a gun to your head/ dance monkey dance- this will never spark creativity.
  • You can find a different version of her presentation here: http://www.refinery29.com/2016/03/105591/how-to-be-creative

12:30 17 Ways Breakfast is Transforming America

I was most excited for this session because I LOVE Christina Tosi! Some of my favorite tid-bits:

  • Now people eat breakfast all day, this has really changed over the years.
  • Now people go on brunch dates and meet up over breakfast instead of a power lunch.
  • Christina Tosi was a picky eater, but her mom let her eat any cereal that she wanted, but the mom could pour as much milk over it as she wanted. The start of cereal milk!
  • Everything has an egg on it now, more foods can be considered breakfast food.
  • Squirl- Avocado toast. She gets her inspiration from the markets, Oct to Feb avocados aren’t in season, they’re too expensive and aren’t flavorful. The toast is their 3rd most ordered item on the menu, but avocados will have an even shorter season this year. She hopes that other restaurants follow her lead on this
  • Breakfast sends a lot of mixed messages- what’s good for me? What’s hip?
  • Christina- “I’m the most creative when I back myself into a corner and have to make something good.”
  • Flavors have to appeal “This makes sense in my mouth”
  • Tim Love- “Every morning we start fresh, no hustle and bustle, no distractions. My family eats breakfast together.”
  • Liquids are the future of breakfast. More restaurants will open for breakfast.
  • People want savory breakfast with a bite of sweet at the end, just like dinner and dessert
  • People look for familiarity in breakfast but it’s changing, now people crave variety.
  • Starting Sqirl came from a humble place, every day you open the door and hope people can come. They wanted a local Cheers vibe and have a loyal base of customers.

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3:30 Good Night and Good Luck: Media in Election Years

I actually wasn’t planning on attending this session, it was my “back up”. Needless to say I am VERY happy that my first choice filled up. This session blew my mind and I was feverishly taking notes throughout this panel. It might not make sense, but here are some of my rabid scribbles:

  • We should learn more about politics,  we should understand polls better
  • Not everything will change because Trump is president. 
  • The NYT actually laid out what his presidency would look like, journalists should have done more of that.
  • If the majority of the population thinks crazy things, there’s almost nothing you can do at that point. 
  • Sometimes people just don’t believe the facts. Emotional narratives meant more than facts in this election, how do we make this relevant to people?
  • You can’t control TV news, you can only do your job.
  • TV news is now for middle America now, it didn’t used to be that way.
  • Elitists and parties lead the votes- with great power comes great responsibility. Satire punctures power, gives some catharsis. Comedy lifts your spirits and give you courage.
  • The Bush era seems quaint now.
  • Satire TV show: We’re not church. We’re preaching to the choir so the choir can sing.
  • If Hillary had won, no one would be reading us, the news would be boring.
  • We can’t be hysterical, it turns people off, emotions aren’t good, upbeat and open is good, Trump likes to paint liberals as crazed.
  • Trump never gave journalists any information, Clinton gave them an avalanche. Trump’s campaign didn’t answer his questions, but gave their answers on CNN to make him look like he had holes in his story, he did that to a lot of NY publications.
  • There’s never been trust in media, no eden, no great period of journalism.
  • The NYT doesn’t really represent black southerner, a Chicano farmer. We need to be aware of thing. 
  • Trump tweets are Nixon in real time.
  • Trump relies on the media more than anyone, he needs us. He watches hours of TV everyday, his tweets are him yelling at the TV, he reads everything. Trump heard about Sessions in the Post, Pence hears about things from the media. The media gets things to Trump. We’ve never had that kind of power before.
  • He’s profiting off of his presidency, it’s iffy, it’s gross.
  • We need people on the inside to help the press, we need to give them the info that they need. With Spence, we need to have solidarity with news outlets “Thank you, but I would like you to answer his question first.”
  • Cambridge analytica- How to emotionally sway people to do what you want them to do
  • We vote with our dollars every day, we cannot underestimate this. Slate plus is worth the money.
  • Academic press is willing to share information, needs more collaboration, academics they want to share their work with the masses.
  • Send people who ask good questions and don’t get nervous on TV, this is the only time that the White House has to answer our questions on TV.  

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5:00 The Changing Face of Beauty and Fashion

Editors from Allure, Conde Nast and Cosmopolitan spoke. Analytics didn’t used to be important to them, but they are changing the game now. Print and digital are very different numbers, and there’s very little overlap. They use analytics as one data point, because someone may not be famous now, but could be in the future. Go with your gut, and put the woman first.

YouTube is diverse, fun and shows real personality. There’s so much sameness, and they’re trying to find originality. There’s too much noise, too saturated. They don’t like perfection anymore. It’s good to stumble on beauty. 

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Monday

9:30 Deeper the Dish: Ideology of a Movement

This one broke my heart a little bit. Only about 10-15 people showed up and it was in a huge room. Most of the people who attended were family or friends of the speakers.

The restauranteurs seemed a little out of sync and weren’t very prepared. It might’ve been because it was so early, or the attendance was big, but their energy was low, and they didn’t seem excited to be there. A couple things I was able to glean: 

  • Social media is the main way that they advertise, but they do PR too.
  • They don’t eat out often, but when they do they are habit eaters or they are traveling.
  • Copenhagen is doing some cool stuff.
  • Emmer and Rye makes soy sauce out of bread.

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11:00 The Fashion Designer in the Age of Social Media

Marc Jacobs is just joyful and adorable. He made me laugh and I really enjoyed how honest he was about much much he loves had hates social media. There was a question, “What’s it like to be Marc Jacobs right now?” He though about it for a second, smiled a little and said something like, “I work up in Austin, ate pancakes and bacon for breakfast, had fun with my friends and now I’m here, talking to you. I would have to say that my life is pretty great right now.” Everyone burst into applause. 

February Goals

Pay off my school loans.

With my January, February and March payments, I’m more than halfway to my goal of a zero balance!

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Take myself on a date once a month.

If you haven’t heard, this is the coldest, dreariest Seattle winter since 1985. Three decades! I kept waiting to feel calm and relaxed, but instead I felt more and more reclusive and exhausted, cooped up by the cold, dark weather. There was even a 3 day weekend that felt wasted, where I barely left the house at all. Throughout the month I took myself on a few little dates, but nothing big. In a way, it was better that way. It was good to peel myself out of the house and shuffle to someplace nice for a meal!

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John and I don’t normally do anything big for Valentine’s, but this year I was sick as a dog with a cold. A few nights later (super rainy of course) we bundled up and got a drink at an adorable bar, and then headed to get a Katsu Burger. It was a mellow night for most people, but felt really special to me.

In a random turn of events, John and I actually had a really wonderful date on a weekday. Instead of making dinner, we decided to stop in one of our favorite restaurants, Grappa, and then grabbed some frozen yogurt for dessert. We went to pick up an old cabinet from a Craigslist ad and this incredibly old, wonderfully kind man opened the door and told us all about the piece. It was really just one of my favorite nights!16864693_1230261620427684_8487991975479348717_n

Do something politically active once a month.

I’ve really surprised myself with how quickly I’ve adopted reading the newspaper into my daily life. At first, I felt like I would never manage to finish an issue, and then all the sudden it felt completely natural to read the newspaper on the bus or at a restaurant. In some ways, I feel like I’m leading the old lady life that I’ve always wanted.

I was worried that reading the news everyday would stress me out and at times, I’ve gotten really emotional. The world is such a sad place and the news can be downright distressing. But in my ways, reading the news has made me more calm. I know what is happening, I know the facts, I know the backstory. I’m up to date as things change and I feel a part of the news, instead of just an observer.

17191092_1241061912680988_2166767601709595897_nA couple things really surprised me: I feel more connected than ever to my community and that I’m constantly learning something new. Good journalism not only connects you to the story, it helps you see a new perspective on things and introduces you to new ideas. I’ve forgotten how much I’ve missed that.

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Set monthly exercise goals.

 I fell slightly short of my February goal, but I blame being sick. It’s been such a dark and wet winter and I’ve been fighting colds off left and right, leaving me with almost no energy. I’m going to stick with it this month and try to kick these colds in the butt!

Do something special for John once a month.

My February “something special” doesn’t seem all that romantic… but I took John’s car to the car wash and I bought him some extra gym clothes. The car was filthy and he always made comments about it, but he’s never been someone who likes going to the car wash and watching other people wash the car. (Even though we haven’t been allowed to wash cars at any of our apartments!) Something I always loved was taking the car to get washed with my dad when he was little, and so I really enjoyed sitting back and reading my book until they called my name. The car is almost unrecognizable now… and it actually smells good!

Meditate every day.

This wasn’t a great month for my meditation practice. I’ve been trying to relax more about work, but every time I feel like I can step back, it sucks me back in again. I’m trying my best to grapple with it and I can only hope that things start to change very soon.

Make a new friend. 

I got lunch and coffee a couple times with a couple different people this month.

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Something I’m really proud of was that I finally hosted a happy hour at work! This is something most people are encouraged do in their first month, and I finally had time to do after 8 months. I did a flavor tripping theme and people seemed to enjoy it! Making friends at my current job has been a big struggle for me, I feel like I rub just about everyone the wrong way. I hope this happy hour helped me be a little more understood, and show a different side to me.

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Other things that happened in February…

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John made us a gorgeous dark blue velvet headboard, something that I’ve ALWAYS wanted. I even got to help a little on this project! He’s not 100% happy with how it turned out, but I feel so grown up with a big fancy headboard.

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Tulips came into bloom and I basically covered every surface in our house with them.

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The upside to crappy weather is that the cats really enjoyed all the attention they’ve been getting all the cuddles they could ask for!

January

Pay off my school loans.

Last month I paid off $4,500 and this month I paid off $3,500! I’m about 2/3 of the way to completely paying off my students loans and it feels so great to see those numbers. On one hand, I’ve definitely felt a pinch in my pockets because I’m completely OCD about money, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the years. In the end, I know it will feel so great to finally be free of that monthly bill.

Take myself on a date once a month.

Last month I spent MLK Jr Day walking around my neighborhood and I treated myself to a delicious Puerco Asada sandwich at Manu’s Bodega. As I sat in a nearby park, slurping the sauces that slid down my wrists while reading a new book, the sun came out for the tiniest of moments and it was beautiful. The perfect moment.

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Do something politically active once a month.

Last month John and I participated in the Women’s March. I got so choked up when I saw the number of people crowded at the starting point. Old women, young women, little girls, men, dogs… so many people! The signs were funny and sad. The speeches were slightly annoying and then super uplifting. Looking around, I saw a lot of people that could be my friends. A lot of my female (and male) coworkers marched. It was just a wonderful experience to be there, surrounded by all those people.

While I’m glad that I marched, the march in Seattle was really poorly planned and it kind of felt like all my worst fears in one place. It was so loud, and people were squeezed together like sardines. Due to being super tired, pretty hungover and pretty much the most introverted person ever, I led our little group along side streets (instead of with the packed crowds) and eventually when we got to downtown (a little more than halfway to the finish) we gave up. I was hurting, exhausted, and starving. We grabbed lunch and decided to take the train home, but the train station was so packed that they weren’t letting people in for fear of getting trampled. (Again- worst nightmare).

We went home and marveled at the numbers (the largest march in the history Seattle, they expected about 50,000 people and estimate that it was actually around 130,000) feeling proud that we were apart of something so incredibly important, but we decided that marches are officially not something that we aren’t interested in doing- ever again.

This month I’ve decided to subscribe to the Seattle Times. Rather than read the news in passing, I want to be able to become more educated on what is actually going on in the world.

Set monthly exercise goals.

 We have officially joined a gym! While we still haven’t gotten on a strong schedule yet, but we’re going at least twice a week and I feel great after we go (I can’t say the same for John!) We haven’t seen any results yet, but I’m hopeful that we will get into a strong routine within the next month. I’m going to start setting goals tied to a treat at the end of the month 🙂

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Do something special for John once a month.

Last month my goal was to get John a passport so that in the future we could take a weekend trip to Vancouver. John, being John, made this very difficult. So instead, I bought him some new dress shirts that he was in desperate need of. Plus, I took a personal day off to visit him in Bellevue and met him for lunch at Tavern Law, which so good, and really cute!

Meditate every day.

There are some weeks where I’ve done really well at this, and others where I feel I’ve failed completely.

The hardest part has been finding time and space at work. I feel weird meditating at my desk and I feel weird reserving a conference room. I’ll need to figure something out, but for now it’s definitely a work in progress!

Make a new friend. 

In January I went on a blind-friend date. It sounds lame… and it was kind of lame. It’s crappy to admit, but I have such a hard time connecting with people and really feeling understood.

I recently grabbed lunch with an old co-worker this month and a work-networking lunch that both went a bit better, so maybe the friend date just wasn’t a good match. I’m going to keep trying, but I’m also not in a rush to make things fit that just aren’t fitting.

Other things that happened in January…

I went to CES in Las Vegas for work. Everything I had worked on went off without a hitch and my work was minimally stressful, but the insane environment really took a toll on me. There were crowds and lines EVERYWHERE. You were literally walking shoulder to shoulder with the people next to you. People can still smoke indoors in Vegas! Women were walking around essentially naked! Needless to say, I’m ok never going back again. There were some fun moments though… the best being a bowling night for our two work teams to come together and have some fun before the CES madness and I treated myself to a dinner at Nobu and the best wine of my life.

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We had our work holiday party in a cute space in Pioneer Square. We didn’t really get that into the masquerade theme, but we enjoyed wine, snacks, photo booth photos and I danced my heart out for one song!

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John recently started a blog Misadventures in Upcycling and Repurposing Furniture for all his projects that he’s done around our house and sold on Craigslist. While he’s kicking butt at his new job, he’s needed a creative outlet too. John has really put a ton of effort into his blog and we’ve actually been able to share it with a people people on Craigslist already! (“Omg I’m dying to find bookshelves like yours, where did you find them?!”) I’m really proud of his ability to create such beautiful things and write so wonderfully.

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Oi Vey 2016

I feel like everyone is on the same page as me right now… 2016 was an incredibly challenging year. Horrible events were reported in the news almost every day and I feel scared and sad for our future.

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In the spring…

  • John and I got a cold then flu that stuck around for three straight months.
  • When we took a weekend trip to Portland, we were threatened by a couple of homeless men.
  • My annual trip to the dermatologist found more mutated cells and more testing for skin cancer. (I’m fine, but it’s pretty likely those cells will come back cancerous one day) 
  • After years on debilitating back pain, I was officially diagnosed with scolosis. Trying physical therapy and acupuncture therapy didn’t help and there’s really nothing I can do except manage the pain. 

In the summer…

  • Several experiences within my family have really disappointed me the year, causing me to put distance in several relationships.
  • We had a flea infestation in our new apartment that lasted two months. It took four different treatments for something to finally work.

In the fall…

  • John quit his job and he was out of work for two months.
  • John’s youngest started to experience intense psychological episodes and doctors have recommended everything from medication to a hospital stay.
  • My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer and was rushed into major surgery with a several month recovery process.
  • Donald Trump, an ignorant, idiotic reality TV star, is the president of the United States.

In all fairness, good things happened too…

  • I started a new job at a much improved company. I have more responsibility, but I’m learning a lot and am basically kicking ass.
  • I had the opportunity through work to volunteer more than I ever have before, helping the homeless through organizations like Urban Rest Stop and YouthCare.
  • I met John’s family! We took the kids with us to Virginia where we rode roller coasters, fished in a saltwater river and ate at the Waffle House.
  • I dressed as Hillary Clinton for Halloween and everyone knew who I was!
  • John and I have made our apartment even more beautiful than ever before and we finally bought a new couch!
  • When things got too hard, I took a long weekend to do a beautiful solo hiking trip to Whidbey Island. 

In the end, I learned to love and respect more about myself than ever before. I am a really loving daughter. I am really good at my job. I love my boyfriend and I’ve found that it’s true, it does get better every year.  I care about my community. I care about our political climate. I care about our environment. I’m a good cat mom. I’m a tough woman and if 2016 didn’t defeat me, nothing will! I welcome 2017 with open arms and can’t wait for this “fresh start” to wipe this slate clean.