When you’re, the only way to put it, STUCK!!!!

One of the most inspirational things I’ve heard someone say to me within the last year came from a drag queen named Violet Femme. Myself and three gal pals from work went up to Minneapolis last November for a two day shopping event with an overnight in downtown so we could go to a show at Gay 90s. That Friday night was just a couple of days after the 2016 election so the mood was a little grim and it seemed everyone around us was just trying to forget what had happened and have fun. Violet Femme, the MC for the evening, started to speak after the opening dance number and stated, ” I just want all ya to know, this is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done! I really mean that, I was once in a rock band called Faggidy Ann! Anyways I just want all of you to know if there’s something that you want to do, any dreams you have, just go on and do it!!” I can’t say enough how much I loved those words and how much they meant to me that night.

I have been lucky to work with two very amazing women who have inspired me so much and will continue on to do so. One of them is the picture of what happens when you work hard: your dreams really can come true. The other is just starting to live her dreams by spending a summer in Europe before attending law school in the fall.

I met up with someone in Vegas who was a part of my Girls Love Travel community on facebook, a local who has done work with her own marketing firm but now is pursuing a makeup and skin company she is passionate about. Living in a huge area like Vegas, it’s easier to be an entrepreneur and make a living that way than it is here in North Iowa where I live. Not impossible to do but a little more difficult. I hope that with more younger people populating the area, much needed change and growth can happen in our region. When I see new businesses and attractions pop up, it excites me and gives me hope for the future.

It’s a love and hate relationship with the area I reside: I love living here in the summer but not so much in the winter. I HATE THE COLD AND SNOW!! It’s an affordable area with two bigger cities a couple hours away with airports that can get me to anywhere in the world. I feel fortunate to have a job, it’s really hard to find employment especially in the town I live in. Its nice to have benefits and access to education, a discounted Y membership and vacation time. As a person who is passionate about anything travel, I love that vacation time.

I still have to work on my dream, I don’t know exactly what it is yet. Well maybe I do, I just don’t believe in saying I’m going to do this or dream of this, I just want to work hard and ‘just go do it!’ I have many more places to travel to, food to eat, even more writing to do. Maybe someday I can have the Carrie Bradshaw life, but more realistically. No one in real life who is a weekly column writer lives in that big of an apartment in NYC and has 40 pairs of Manolo Blahniks that run $500.00 +. Maybe I can travel to places and make a living writing about it and sharing it with everyone. If not make a living, I can just save like I usually do. The extravagant plan I had for this fall will not pan out as plan but maybe I can still plan a smaller trip anyway!

I feel like I’m stuck between what I’m doing and what I could be doing. I don’t want to (can’t either) quit my job but when it’s just not going well, how do you know when it is time to move on? Until then hopefully I can hop on a plane one more time across an ocean before the year is over.

A solid piece of advice….

Don’t be afraid to do thing on your own, especially travel. If you wait on others, you may not ever get to go where you want to.

Recently I flew out to Las Vegas solo, I did meet up with a couple of ladies while out there but mostly by myself, and it was the most relaxing and fun vacations I’ve ever had. At times it did feel a little weird and boring to be walking around by myself in the middle of meeting up with my friend from college who lives there as well as a fellow member of an online travel community I am apart of, also a local of Vegas. I also made some ‘friends’ before the shows I attended.

Had I not gone I would have missed out on:

Seeing Britney Spears before she finishes out her residency this year

The Beatles LOVE

Bodies the Exhibit

a gondola ride at the Venetian

the dolphin exhibit at the Mirage

I’m so happy to be a part of an online community where I can meet ladies like myself who know you can have fun traveling alone. I hope to meet more ladies from this group on my future travels. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I can’t count how many people back home would say, “You are going out by YOURSELF?!?” If a woman does anything on her own, it’s still looked down on and thought about as weird. Especially since I’m from Iowa where majority of the population is from here originally and seldom leaves the state or even country. Well that’s my family anyway. Like I said, I got to see a friend from college before she leaves the mainland for Hawaii where her husband will be reassigned.
I am married myself and even though I am a part of a unit with my husband, I am still my own individual person. It is essential both him and I operate as individual ‘ones’ because that is what we are. We are two people in a one unit, not half of one person in one unit. If I waited for him to come back to Vegas we me, I’d be waiting a long time because it doesn’t excite him as much.

 

On an unrelated note: I don’t want to stop blogging but lately I feel like there’s no point to me doing it. Like who I am to be an expert at anything? I hope to find more ways to improve so this can be something I enjoy doing again. Working on your Masters where you have to write in large amounts can make anyone forget that writing can be enjoyable or fun. I hope to find my purpose in life again when right now it feels like I’m just floating around.

My Favorite Travel Tools

As I sit here and write this, I am pool side at The Linq Hotel in Las Vegas with margarita in hand. All I can do to pretend that I get paid to do this. This Vegas trip was for: to celebrate myself becoming debt free by paying off my student loans (a post to come on that later. Yeah i know, I’m all sorts of out of order.) and also to visit my good friend from college while she is still on the mainland. She lives on the air force base in Vegas with her husband but later this year they will be transferred to Hawaii. Sad for family and friends like me but good for them because who wouldn’t love living in Hawaii?!?!?

My go to travel tools I used to plan this trip: Expedia as well as sticking to the one airline I’ve been accumulating miles, Delta. I have found over the years Expedia has been pretty accurate when finding me the best prices for where I want to go. When I took a job where I travel once or twice a year, I decided to enroll in their Rewards program. I got up to Silver status and almost to Gold! Booking a certain number of nights and/ or dollar amounts will get you points that accumulate to money to use toward a future hotel booking. I plan on doing a trip with a friend later this year and I have money, with more to come from this Vegas trip, to use when we are trying to plan where to stay. With $200.00 worth of points you can stay in a nice hotel for free or almost next to nothing. Also, when they say you save money by bundling, booking hotel and air together, they really mean it. Depending on what day you book and what day you choose to fly, you can save more money. If I book a trip, I have been known to hover over the site a every day of the week to check out the average prices.

Prior to taking on a job where I would be traveling once or twice a year, I didn’t think I’d ever need to start thinking about trying to stick with one airline. However when I started traveling more with my husband and to the other location of my work, I figured getting a Delta Skymiles account wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I love using the app with my Skymiles account as it has made it easier for us to upgrade. We upgraded to First Class when we flew down to Cancun earlier this year. An upgrade to Delta Comfort is pretty great if you have to money for it but don’t want to spend as much as first class. With Delta Comfort you get a little more leg room, you get to board the plane first and all alcoholic drinks are included. Pretty worth the money if you ask me. Also when I have upgraded, I accumulate more miles that way besides just the base miles I earn with each trip. Since Delta merged with AirBnb, I can use their website with my Skymiles account and earn more miles that way.

So there you have my quick little mention of the things I love to use when planning my trips. This was free advertisement for Expedia and Delta even though some compensation would be great! 😉 wink! I just like using them that much.

 

When your favorite store decides to go Bankrupt…

When my sister just had to share the post on my Facebook wall that Vanity, my favorite clothing store of all time, was going bankrupt and closing all their stores, it crushed me. Not only because at that moment I noticed every piece of my outfit that day was from that store but because I have been shopping there since I entered middle school. Literally over half of my lifetime!! Majority of my closet contains clothing from Vanity, how will I survive?!?! It really is the end of an era.

Besides planning out when I need to get to my nearest store and buy all the layering tunic tanks, leggings and other essentials I could get my hands on, I remembered the early days of when I started shopping there….
When I had entered middle school in 6th grade, I was this very awkward, nerdy, insecure, chubby, girl who had no idea how to fit in or how to even be myself. What clothes I did wear were hand me downs or things I had to have my mom buy me from discount places or sales racks. I wore what I was told or what I thought would look good, not what I actually liked. I know all middle school kids are just basically that: kids. Kids aren’t supposed to have good fashion tastes but really I was so clueless with no sense what how to dress myself what so ever.

It was 7th grade that I tried to start basic in developing my wardrobe: luckily casual and layering t-shirts were a thing so one of the brands of shirts I paired with my jeans from Vanity was Sugar. Trendy at that time. While I struggled with my chunkiness overall body image, I was happy that one article of clothing was comfortable and i felt I looked good in:

  Those awkward middle school years….

I remember getting a $10.00 off card in the mall for my birthday every year and I would always use them to buy a pair of Silver Jeans, since my Mom said would not spend $50.00 on a pair of jeans for me. Going over the Vanity Store in Southbridge Mall in Mason City, IA, nothing could get me more excited.

8th grade is when I really started to get my own sense of fashion and what would look good on me. At that time, black pleather pants were so in as well as rock style shirts and tanks. I had so many shirts, jeans, and THOSE pants in my closets. I also had my first part time job washing dishes so I was able to buy more of my own clothes and I didn’t have a spending limit on my jeans! Going through my old pictures made me a little sad I grew up in the time before smart phones and selfies and had to rely on disposable cameras and film developing for pictures. So many fun clothes I had but no photographic evidence. The ones I do have, who can remember this look (I didn’t only wear red! Black shirts were my jam since they were thinning):

 I was big into the whole rock start girl look.

 I bought my own flared Silver Jeans and remember when Doc Boots were worn with every outfit?!?!?

 I’m sad this is the only picture I have of my favorite middle school shirt: a red tanks that tied up on the sides!!! The word ‘ROCK’ was on the from with studs. That was soo cool to me then. Not a good quality but like I said the days of disposable cameras….

High school I had started to thin out and loved wearing the comfy lounge look that was in:

 Did you notice my shirt says ‘Ex Cheerleader’?

 Love this matching flame long sleeve under a short sleeve combo

The older I got the less awkward and more comfortable I became with who I was, what I liked and how I dressed. Confidence must come with age. Looking back on all the pictures after high school, it’s so amazing seeing how clothes from my favorite store were apart of so many memories:

-My 21st birthday
-After going through a much needed breakup before my senior year of college and buying a ‘I’m going out and looking hot because I’m now single’
-My senior year of college when my green plaid zip up hoodie was EVERYTHING
-Going to a concert with friends
-Going to Vegas
-Going to Europe
-When Tyler proposed to me
-Getting a new job- all the basic layering tees and tanks became my wardrobe staple.

For me, clothes are more than just fabric you place on your back. They are art like and more of an expression or exclamation of THIS IS ME!! LOOK AT ME!! I LOVE HOW I LOOK!! I’m FUCKING FABULOUS!!!! It’s amazing how as I grown woman of 30 I still shopped in the same store that I did at age 12 and not feel like ‘I’m too old for this’.

Vanity was there as I was growing up and started to discover who I am when that concept was impossible for me to grasp. I’m so sad that it will be gone soon but on March 5th, 2017, I drove to Southbridge Mall to shop at Vanity one last time. I did it right and didn’t care about how much things were: I loaded up, tried them on and checked out. After $215.00 worth of clothes, I left satisfied but nostalgic for the past and wishing I had more of these trips to make.

I know Vanity is just a store and nothing is made to last but I’m fortunate to have had this store and how it helped growing up for me become a little more enjoyable.

RIP Vanity.

 

 

My how my Fridays nights have changed….

One month ago, (the month of January), I had the freedom to get off work do whatever I wanted: come home, cook, maybe go to the Y and work out, maybe head out for a couple of drinks at any given night of the week, clean while blasting “I’ll Be Your Shelter” by Taylor Dayne on Youtube (it’s how I listen to random music at home). I was preparing to dance in our community Dancing With The Stars fundraiser (here’s a photo op for you curious ones)

and getting ready to go back down to Cancun with my husband the morning immediately after I performed in said fundraiser. (Same resort we stayed last year, Excellence Playa Mujeres!)
 
(I had a moment and upgraded us to First Class at last minute, something neither of us had ever experienced. Why not? YOLO bitches! So worth $198.00 per person! Building up those Delta SkyMiles…)

Lots of free time, ability to sleep in every weekend, basically I could leave my house after work and not come back until I felt like it.

Fast forward to last Friday night, February 17th: I am am home as I have been for the past four weekends. I have been taken hostage by a furry creature with razor sharp teeth:

I can’t leave this thing alone and she has thrown up three times in one hour!
Tyler and I have become fur parents! Meet Nikki, our beagle mix puppy! She came home on Saturday January 28th, the day after we came back from Mexico, and our lives have not been the same since then.

Last month in January, Tyler and I were in the beginning stages of considering adopting a dog, something we’d been talking about since we started living together over 4 years ago. Both of us had grown up with dogs and missed having one around and figured we didn’t have a reason why not. I had started looking up shelters around the area online and started the basic steps in the adoption process figuring it was a longer process and could take some time.

Friday January 13th exactly one week before Dancing With The Stars and leaving for our Cancun trip, I stumbled across Petfinder.com and did a search within 100 miles. I saw Nikki’s post and it seemed like everything kind of just happened from there: I called the number listed and talked to the lady who ran Pet Projects in Minnesota (where Nikki came from), I showed the picture to Tyler and asked what he thought, I set up a meeting time to see Nikki the next day in Fairbault, MN, we drove up the next day to meet her and wrote a check for the adoption fees, we drove up to Northfield, MN two weeks later and officially adopted/ brought her home. We didn’t expect to become fur parents this soon but even so we are super happy we finally are!

Like I said both of us had dogs in the past and knew what to expect with: feeding, taking her out when she has to go, cleaning up accidents on the floor, chewing, puppy biting, jumping up, etc but the reality of it is something entirely different and Nikki isn’t supposed to or going to be like any of our dogs we had growing up. It has been life changing for both of us.

I never realized how lucky I was to sleep in or get up and not worry about our house being destroyed while getting ready for work.

Don’t let this innocent face fool you, she has sharp teeth and can rip up anything! Things I didn’t think she’d do or be into, she is. Nikki was only a little over three months old when we brought her home so Tyler and I being on separate work shifts has been good for her as she adjusts to her forever home and growing out of the puppy stage. Good for Nikki but tough for Tyler and I as it’s hard to go to the bathroom without her glued to our sides wanting to come with. Her bathroom schedule now takes priority over our own bathroom or sleeping schedules. (It will get better the older she gets). It would be nice to eat and not have her put her paws on the table looking to see what we are eating. Just let me eat in peace!!! Each of us feels like a single parent when the other is at work.
How did this happen?!? I sometimes wonder… one month ago I was going out on Fridays nights, now I’m stuck at home cleaning up dog puke. Three different piles of dog puke!

I get by knowing Nikki is slowly but surely growing up and the more time we work with her, the better dog she will be. She has been lucky to have two people around constantly around her throughout the day, something not all dogs are lucky to have. I get excited when we go another week without her having an accident (Almost three weeks!!) and being able to be outside by herself without freaking out that we aren’t there but knowing we are inside.

The thing I have struggled with most was leaving her alone at home in her crate during the first week and beyond. I knew she would be fine in the crate for one or two hours if I had to run to the Y or to a meeting but I hated (still do) putting her in there and hearing her while/cry/bark. Even when I knew this was natural for dogs and Nikki would have to get used to it, the fact didn’t stop I would still hear Sarah McLaughlin singing in my head!!!

Even during it’s hardships, being a fur Mama is great! I have a companion to go with me on my walks, we have a source of entertainment when at home and I have her to snuggle with me while I watch the entire series of Gilmore Girls:

Seriously, my heart melts every time this happens!

I have learned to have patience, so has Tyler, but him and I also realize that neither of us have much of it at all. Even though dogs and children are not the same and you can’t really compare the two, we know that by adopting Nikki both of us are set on the decision that we don’t want children. We have given up a little bit of our freedom but are unwilling to lose it completely and that’s OK. At least we know what we want and agree on it. Unlike a kid, we can still travel whenever we want. Sure it will cost us money to have her boarded but we still have the option to take vacations when we want to.
I have learned how to time manage and prioritize more than I ever have. I have learned how to work with her even after she makes me so angry by not listening after saying “NO!” or “GET DOWN!” 50 times in a row.

Honestly, how can you stay mad at that face?!?!

I am seriously excited for the rest of the year as Nikki turns from a puppy into a full grown dog even though her mind might still be puppy for years afterward. I can’t wait to build a fence in our backyard so she can run around it. I can’t wait to take her on more walks. I can’t wait to bring her along in the car for the trips that we can. I can’t wait until we can leave her at home without putting her in the crate, or at least in one room without being completely contained. Nikki just gets better every day. I am so crazy stupid happy but at times I wonder if just my sleep deprivation kicking in…

End Note: During this whole process I can’t say enough how happy I am that we adopted instead of shopped. It warms my heart knowing we gave her a good home.

2016 to 2017

Intro

I didn’t want to be away too long, but when I haven’t been traveling lately and instead preoccupied up until November with: my regular full time job, a part time job and an online grad class, writing for fun has been pushed aside unintentionally. What ambition was left I began work on a post about women, for women on how awesome we are and all the double standards we face in our daily lives. Then… the election happened. That is all I have to say about that (ala Forrest Gump). During a time where tensions are still high and sides taken, I decided to wait but continue working on the post gradually. It should be for ALL women no matter what their stance; even when it will still be very challenging to not have it cross political lines but such is life.

When the election was all said and over with I decided that even when I may be unhappy with things going on in our country and the world, most of which is far out of my control, I wasn’t going to let things in my life that I CAN control bring me down or make me miserably unhappy. I was also at that time two weeks away from turning 30 and wanted to start this new decade of my life happy, thankful, in control and how wanted it to be.

Luckily where the election fell, I had just completed one grad class and waiting for another to begin. I looked at the things I had going on outside of my 40 hour a week job besides the course: a part time job and the upcoming Rotary Club Dancing With the Stars fundraiser I was in as one of the couples competing. Right away I decided to withdraw from the upcoming online term; instead of starting the class in November I’d wait to take it in February when it would fall within the range of spring semester of campus.

After what seemed like a long time over the previous months while debating the pros or cons over and over again: I knew it was time I quit my part time job. This has helped relieve so much by: allowing me to keep a sleep schedule, less stress by not worrying about hours or how others (mostly men) perceive me (will be touched on more in the article about women for women) or dealing with negativity from others. As I stated before there is enough negativity and toxic people in the world, no longer was my life going to be full of those things. I can’t believe how much more happier I am!

Even though I now had less money coming in, I feel I’m still doing ok in that area. There is so much to be involved in here in our small town of Forest City that keeping you busy can also help you save money. Since I no longer have had to work on Thursday nights: I could now return to being involved in a community organization I had started to the year before:

Forest City Young Professionals

I became involved with Forest City Young Professionals in early 2015 by attending monthly meetings and social functions until I took my part time job and was involved in community theater in early 2016. It has felt good to finally be involved with the group again. The organization is made up of people ranging from ages 22 to mid 30s who regular meet to network, socialize, volunteer and find ways to get involved in our community. We hold a monthly meeting, usually relaxed and informal but still making note of items discussed. These meetings have ranged from basics discussions about to group to having topics and speakers for the nights. Some of the topics have included:

Dinner for Dummies
City Hall and City Council Meetings
Departments of the City with the then Mayor of Forest City
Starting your Own Business
How to Invest
Loans
Credit, Finances and Buying a Home

These are just a few. At our most recent meeting we had a speaker from the Toastmasters of Mason City who gave a nice presentation on public speaking and other tips for organizations like ourselves. Young Professionals also do volunteer work: the Forest Theater, AFS Fun Night, Puckerbrush, etc.

Once a month we try and plan a social function that opens up to others in the community outside our organization: trivia night, pub crawls, concerts, hockey games and for this last month of December we had an Ugly Sweater Party at Ay Jalisco Mexican Restaurant: (Why I am wearing a Star Wars Christmas sweater above in my featured image)
  

  

If you notice our lovely green mugs in the photo: we had those on sale for $1.00 and with those you got $2.00 draw beers or $5.00 cocktails. Their bar menu for introduced that night for us: (I highly recommend their Blue Margarita!!!)

Brickstreet Theater

I was cast a small part in the Brickstreet Theater performance of Rumors last spring and wanted to continue on as an actor or work behind the scenes. I hadn’t planned on being involved with their December production of A Christmas Story because of everything else I had going on when the show was first organized and put together in September. I got a call the end of November from my friend, also the assistant director, asking if I wanted to help with the lights for the show. I wanted to say yes but was worried about this taking on too big of time commitment. We worked it out that I would share tech week with another light person and then we would take turns running lights for the shows running during the two weeks. After we worked the board, and I got comfortable and had so much fun! I most definitely could run the board by myself for tech week and all performances in the future! (Any Brickstreet people who may read this, please don’t not cast me because you are afraid you wont find a light person! haha I do like operating the light but I love acting and being on stage more! I’m first and foremost an actor! 🙂 I say this with love)

The show’s cast was made up of mostly kids and they did a marvelous job! The set was one of the best I’ve ever seen on that stage. I didn’t realize you could fit all those pieces on to it! I just hope more community will keep attending these shows and how enjoyable they are even if you don’t know anyone in the show! We have a lot of talent in this town and all the kids looked so stinkin cute!!!

Christmas and New Year

Besides Christmas, December was a good month and I mostly spend it in Forest City. Besides me not wanting to travel far with snow and sub zero wind chills there is so much to do and get involved with. We have some good local restaurants and drinking establishments that are unique and unlike anything we’ve had before. Despite critical remarks they are what this town has wanted and needs if we want business to remain local. I love eating the awesome food and margaritas as Ay Jalisco also having a place like Paddler’s Tap in town has been awesome. The change of pace of having a tap house with craft beer separate from your typical lounge or sports bar adds so much variety especially on main street which we have been trying to revive for years! Not saying there is nothing wrong with your neighborhood lounge or sports bars, those are great too but having variety and choices to pick from makes everyone want to stay here majority of the time and not feel like they have to leave town to have fun every weekend.

So now I am excited that 2017 has come and I can start fresh from the messy end of 2016. I’m not really much on New Year Resolutions but I feel the changes and schedule I started to make I can now try and implement on a clean slate that begins with the new year. I hope to continue on with writing and find a routine/schedule that works out the best. Also if I can attend and conferences or workshop that will help improve my writing or my format so I can just keep getting better at doing this. I have been working out regularly but hope to make more of the time I do and add more strength training. I still have stubborn weight that I haven’t been able to lose. I WILL pay off my student loans this year! I want to put more money in my savings. I want to book two more trips besides going to Cancun this month; one state side and one international. I want to hopefully obtain another position at my current place of employment. I want to be involved in more community theater productions but as an actor with a role that has more than two lines. I want to help out with causes and help spread awareness on issues that mean a lot to me: climate change, human rights, equality for women and all minorities, women’s issues, education, etc. Instead of just complaining about it I hope to actually help do something about it.

It’s a new year and a new decade for me, I’m ready for whatever this year and the rest of my 30s are going to bring.

End of Month Quickie

I like staying busy but I really need to learn when I need to say ‘no’. My intentions of taking on an extra job was good to start saving money for our future new house and a new car all while being less than of year of having my student loans paid off BUT I know I’m possibly burning the candle at both ends. Especially this week: I finally got a working sewing machine to finish my costume for the Renaissance festival but I only have two more nights to put it together. Not having a part time job would give me extra time to work on it or just relax and enjoy other things that have taken a backseat: attending FC Young Professionals meetings, reading, this blog etc but no instead I made myself live this entire week like I’m on crunch time for Project Runway.

Why not just quit or ask to scale back your hours you may ask? Well I know I’m needed in both my jobs and don’t want to cause any mess so I just suck it up and keep plugging away until both goals are met: student loans paid off and I get to my target amount I wanted in my savings. I’m 30% of the way there! I’ve even thought of asking to go every other Friday instead of Friday even though the money is good when you do every Friday night. I may have become something I try to avoid, being a sucker for money instead of my sanity.

One thing I miss sooo very much that I just don’t have time for: SHOPPING!!! I feel like I have to make a day out of it but that can be discouraging because the couple things you may look for and need aren’t available or might not fit you right. Especially right now when I’m in between sizes and trying to loose weight. Plus I live in North Iowa were your stores are either Junior of Misses: Misses sizes are very boxy and don’t fit right and Junior sizes make me look like I’m definitely too old to wear them or like a little girl playing dress up if I tried buying my work clothes from there.

Next week after pictures and post about our possible trip to the Ren Fest, I will also be starting another one of my graduate courses. I hope I can use this also as “please I need to cut back to every other week”. Thank you for letting me vent and write another one of my quickies especially those that haven’t stopped reading. This lady is almost 30, I just want to get my money saved, upgrade a house with my husband, own an adult car that’s reliable, go on a shopping spree, learn new things, socialize with people, get paid to write, and drop 25 pounds. I don’t think that is asking for much! 😉

 

Been Away Too Long..

Why does it always feel I have way too much time or no time at all? Or when you work to make money to live and enjoy yourself but you end up working so much that you don’t have time to live, have fun or enjoy yourself? That or you have the time to have fun and you are broke af.

Besides my primary 40 hours a week job I do between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM Monday-Thursday, 10 AM-3 PM on Friday, I have:

A part time bartending job Thursday and Friday nights which originally just started with Thursdays but I have acquired another night due to loss of staffing and me just want to save more money at a faster rate even though it pushes my overall work week from 40 hours up to 53 hours at times. (I have goals, seriously, I’m not crazy in trying to fill all my free time.)

I’ve started taking classes toward my Master’s degree (only one course at a time thankfully)

I’ve been involved in a theater production earlier this year but who know if that will continue with the extra job and graduate classes next season. Perhaps this will have to wait until I’m done working a second job.

This blog I have been trying to update weekly or bi weekly, what was started in February I failed epically July and now August.

There’s a Young Professionals group I used to be able to go to once a month but with extra job I’ve had to step back from that unless they switch up a meeting to a Wednesday night instead of a Thursday night.

I have a Y membership through work I try and use as much as I can during the week.

I’ve started reading a good book

I’m barely started on a costume I would like to wear to the Renaissance Festival.

Even when I’m at home where I should be relaxing I have multiple work roles: I’m a housekeeper, a cook, a groundskeeper, a plumber (Tyler and I both have long hair so yeah I deal with that that creates), I can only imagine how much more I’d have to do if we had kids or even pets. So it could be worse but I have quite a few roles already personally and professionally.

With Tyler working on second shift, 3-11 PM M-F, we don’t get much time together throughout the week. This has us cramming a week of spousing into Saturdays and Sundays. However sometimes I may want to do things with friends on a Saturday or Sunday and other times he may want to do things away from me with his friends on the weekends. I know sometimes this happens but since our weeks are apart I feel a little guilty when I do things not with him. I know it isn’t a big deal and sometimes schedules don’t always go according to plan. It’s something I’ve had to learn to deal with work with until he can move to 1st shift, whenever that may be. We might be waiting 10 years.

Those weekends we get to spend entirely together may have small setback. Two months ago I wrote about the annual summer Marble Run we do on the Harley and how I would post all these stops we would be doing at all the awesome hole in the wall places we ride to. Well this year we’ve had rotten luck; all geared up and ready to roll and this is the radar:
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Right in our path! Grr! What worse is Tyler didn’t get to go on his Sturgis vacation so this year all around has been sad for riding. Hopefully he can get a good day and take off from work to get some riding done before the weather turns cold.

Writing this has helped and you’d think while I’ve been busy and stressed I would do it more. I got into the habit of thinking of it like a job or chore instead of something I enjoy doing. With lack of time I don’t have enough of it to give it the quality I want to see. So until I get back in the groove of things I give you this hot mess of a post or my first ‘quickie’. This wasn’t so bad now, was it?

Gulf Shores, Alabama

One of the perks of my job is getting to travel once or twice a year down to our sister school in Alabama. Being a business trip, the majority of my time is spent working on sight in Orange Beach during the day but the evenings are available to enjoy the sights, food, culture and one must not forget the beaches of Gulf Shores. This was my third trip down and entirely different from my previous two visits. Before I had come down in January and April where you’d only come across locals and a few snowbirds but this time was peak tourist season and MUCH busier than I have gotten used to. Being a resident of Iowa my entire life, Alabama, or the south in general, feels like an entirely different country other than it taking us an entire work day to get down there.

Our journey to Alabama from Iowa consists of being on three different planes and in four different airports starting with the Air Choice One charter flight from Mason City to Chicago. You may remember me sharing my previous experience during our honeymoon from a year ago and that it wasn’t the greatest, but this time that wasn’t the case; it was fantastic! The main reason: we didn’t check any bags! Yes unlike last time (besides the rough air getting into Chicago, that still terrifies me!) we only had to go through security once in Mason City and that made everything so much less stressful. I didn’t realize we had this option even with just carry ons! Also last time I was totally unaware we could walk from terminal to terminal. Air Choice One only operates in Concourse L in Terminal 3, but before I thought Concourse L was all there was in Terminal 3. Nope. It is much bigger and it’s quite a walk from Terminal 3 to 2 but still very much easier accessible without the hassle of reentering through security. Air Choice One is amazing if you don’t have to check luggage, if you must check something then maybe that would be the time to venture up to Minneapolis or down to Des Moines. This trip has inspired a future post: If Tyler and I visit his aunt in Germany, we would fly Air Choice One to Chicago then to Germany BUT only each having 1 carry on and each also having 1 backpack as our personal items.. Stay TUNED!! lol

(Early morning flight pictures)
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In order to make it to Chicago at a decent time to catch our first connecting flight, it usually involves us having to book their earliest flight: this time it was 6:00 AM with check in at 5 AM. I was nervous with the low clouds that we would be stuck in them causing a bumpy flight but we flew higher and it was smooth sailing until we arrived around 8 AM. With low clouds and fog over Chicago it was hard for me to get a shot of the skyline which is the coolest part of the flight…
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After landing and strolling right along to our next gate in Chicago, the next stop was in Atlanta. There are no direct flights from O’Hare to Pensacola so we usually do a connecting in Atlanta or Charlotte. Usually we just stick to Atlanta because it’s only a short 45 minute flight from there to Pensacola. With only having 12 gates, the airport in Pensacola is one of my favorites because of its accessibility and the security line ALWAYS being pretty close to non existent. We are lucky flying down here or back home by starting in small airports and not getting held up in lines waiting for TSA.

Landing in Pensacola around 3:30 PM, we picked up our rental car and we were on the way to Alabama. Usually a 45 minute drive from the airport to where we stay, it look a little over an hour this time; it’s the middle of July and a busy time. The route takes us through a very spread out Pensacola and eventually turns into a scenic drive along the coast:
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Finally after our hour long drive from the airport we reached the condo we were thankful to be put up in. Being our work party was made up of three gals and a guy, us three girls would room together and Tony would be next door in a clone of the one we had. We took the elevator up to the 14th floor and walked down to our door. The view outside our door wasn’t bad:
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It wasn’t until we walked inside and immediately the view before we stepped out to the balcony was amazing! But when we walked out…
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I could hang out here throughout our entire stay even when you wanted to die from the humidity by stepping outside! The condo itself had two bedrooms each with their own full bath, a half bath in the hallway, laundry closet, a full kitchen and living room. We appreciated being able to stay here very much!

With all our things unloaded in the condo it was time to find some grub. We had two first timers on this trip so we had to take them to Island Wing Co. It was away from the beach so less busy then the spots down by the water. Everything made here, including their wings, is baked and not fried to keep things fresh and a little more healthy. I love their blackened mahi mahi sandwich!! Sorry there are no pictures from this portion, my phone was low and had to conserve my battery life.
After dinner we cruised through some local places starting with the Hangout (tourist trap!) for one of my coworkers. They had a band playing outside with lots of little shops and bars. The main building was the giant restaurant serving food you can get anywhere that is overpriced. Next door to the Hangout is one of my personal favorites: The Pink Pony! They have karaoke nightly and a great atmosphere that is just fun. This establishment has been in business for 60 years as of 2016.

The next morning we started out the day with food from one of my favorites things from down south that us up here in the north don’t have:

PUBLIX!!!
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Yes I get excited about this grocery store. We got our breakfast for the week at the condo here and as I cruised through I couldn’t help but notice their produce just looked more green and fresh. Of course given the location their seafood section was the same size as our meat sections up here in our grocery stores. It had a good size section just for SUSHI! If I lived down here I would stop by after work every day for an after work snack!
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The wonderful staff that we work with down in Orange Beach made a southern comfort food style lunch: fried chicken, corn bread, green beans, deviled eggs, biscuits, sweet tea and so much more delicious sides. I look forward to more working lunches like this in the future, such a good idea and a refreshing lunch to have in the middle of our first day of the work week.

After our first day of work it was time to find food for the night. I will skip how we stumbled across where we landed for the night but I’m glad we ended up where we did. I have found my favorite watering hole on my trips. When I’m home in Iowa, I have my VIP Lounge but when I’m down in Alabama I have: The Flying Harpoon!
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This place is tucked behind the huge Oyster House restaurant so unless you know it’s there you don’t get a lot of foot traffic from the tourists. We got a table that fit the four of us and that’s where we stayed for the remainder of the night. The walls are decorated with artwork on paper placements done with crayon by guests from all over.
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I even did my own little artwork:
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They have a small menu of appetizers, salads, seafood, sandwiches but their specialties are PO BOYS!! My coworker opted for the Crab and Crawfish Po boy. I had a salad but added six garlic jumbo shrimp put on top. I also recommend the crab and crawfish cakes as an appetizer! YUM!!!
The wrap around porch and view outside are pretty swell too:
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We had two awesome bartenders take care of us all night: Tom and BR (real name Bryant but he goes by BR and is actually a native of Iowa!) I can’t wait to come back to this place when I am in the area again: $3.50 for well drinks!

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Wednesday: After another jammed packed work day our next choice of eating establishment was The Beach House. A favorite of locals and after my second time eating here I know why. This place is also tucked back with the entrance not facing the road or beach so many tourists don’t know it’s here. Very close to our condo as well so that was nice!
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Outside eating, it wasn’t too bad even though it was very humid. We caught a little breeze. (Hair in my face! grr!)
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Being down in the south I wanted to take advantage of all the fresh seafood I could. Pictured above are my grilled grouper tacos. I have dreams about these bad boys when I’m back home! I have given up trying to eat fish tacos up here in Iowa as they don’t compare to the freshness or flavor down there. Sally ordered the crawfish mac n cheese which looked delicious! Maybe next time when it’s not like an oven outside.

Since this would be our last night staying at the condo, we decided to head back after dinner and walk across the road to the beach! The sun was setting and the waves were rolling in, perfect for some photo ops.
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After we did our frolicking in the water and sand, we decided to head back to the condo for the rest of the night. Us three girls sat out on our balcony relaxing and watching the sun set. I thought that as night set in it would cool down, but the complete opposite happened: we got a breeze for a while but as soon as 10:00 rolled around it got very hot and sticky all of a sudden. Alabama, you are weird.
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It was now Thursday and our last full work day down here. I decided to make use of a lunch hour and eat at one stop introduced to me by my southern ‘counterpart’: Another Broken Egg Café, located in Orange Beach on Canal Road across the toll bridge from the main campus.
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I failed to get a picture of the front but it doesn’t look like much being in a strip mall. This place is open for breakfast and lunch with fresh food that is a health freaks delight. It also has a full bar. Being so hot temperature wise on this visit I tried to eat lighter or healthier so I wouldn’t feel miserable with food that sat at the bottom of my stomach. They have an amazing Kale and Salmon salad:
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Kale, salmon, chopped almonds and homemade honey jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. The mix of textures and flavors.. YUM! I hope to eat breakfast here on another visit.

Back to the office and wrapping up our afternoon with work tying up the necessary ends before we would leave town for the night. The awesome IDT staff in Orange Beach invited us out to dinner at Bill’s By the Beach (not actually located on the beach but across the road with a view of the beach! 🙂 )
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They started us with some appetizers of crab cheese cake spread, grilled pineapple, blackened shrimp, etc..
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Now it was time for the main course and since I seemed to think I didn’t get enough shrimp in the first round of the meal, I wanted more shrimp. They have a shrimp platter where you can order it grilled or fried with fries and coleslaw or a shrimp and grits plate. I decided when in Rome and ordered the shrimp and grits which apparently won an award of some kind:
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Blackened shrimp on top of grits with ‘gravy’ and onions, peppers and tomatoes. When I heard gravy I expected gravy like we have up here but this was of the oil kind and I didn’t care for it but the grits and shrimp were super tasty!! I can now say that I have tried grits!

After good conversations and wonderful meal it was time to say goodbye and be on our way back to Pensacola for the night before our Friday morning flight. But first: hugs for our AL team and group photos!
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We quickly made it back to the condo to get our bags and clean up before departing on the hour drive back to Pensacola. Look a rainbow as we left the Sanibel parking lot!
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It took us longer to get back and seemed like we’d never get there. The joys of peak tourist season pushed our arrival time back a little after 9:00 PM. We usually stay at the Hyatt Place located within walking distance of the terminal. Very nice rooms and a good breakfast buffet in the lobby. The front desk also has a connecting bar that you can also order munchies with your drinks at, which is perfect for kicking back during your last night and going up to your room when you’re ready to sleep.
However with it being the middle of July, rates for the Hyatt were sky high at over 200 a night. Nope, not this time. I had found a cute little hotel a little less than 10 minutes from the airport: At Home Inn and Suites. Their lobby in the main building where their newly added deluxe rooms are housed was gorgeous. We stayed in one of the back two story buildings where all doors are on the outside of the building. Rooms were very reasonable and mostly redone with new beds etc. A perfect alternative for our last night when the Hyatt isn’t an option. Rooms in the back buildings are 70-80 a night but I think we could ‘upgrade’ to the deluxe rooms in the main building for 80-90 a night.

The next morning it was time to return the car and begin the journey back home opposite the way we got down here: Pensacola to Atlanta to Chicago and finally Mason City. Like I mentioned before, we were through security in less than five minutes. I do love this airport!
After a small breakfast of fruit at the hotel, I thought maybe I’d grab one more thing in the airport for breakfast. I tried to stay on the healthy side for this trip but this last breakfast would be another ‘when in Rome’ meal: breakfast sandwich from Chick-fill-A. It really is satisfying having a chicken patty with an egg and cheese on a biscuit. Mmmm Our first flight left at 11:45 AM and after another connecting it was time to leave Chicago back to Mason City on the 8:30 PM flight. Here we are enjoying the last two hour home stretch as well as Chicago as the sun sets.
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As a native Iowan and never residing anywhere else, Alabama is like a whole other country to me. While I love my life, the culture and people here up north, I do enjoy the visits I’m able to take down south when I can. There is such a thing as southern hospitality and despite two different cultures, I felt that from everyone I encountered in Gulf Shores. The beaches are gorgeous, the seafood is fresh and amazing, winters are never there but I can’t leave you my, Iowa even when I don’t want anything to do with you January through half of March. Sorry Alabama no hard feelings, I really do enjoy you when I’m in town for a visit but my home is up here in the North. Until I see you (y’all) again, keep that warm weather waiting for us!

 

 

Iowa: You won’t understand until you experience it!

This post was inspired by a question asked during my last trip outside of Iowa. My friend/trip companion Rachael and I cruised up to the bar at the Flamingo Go Pool and engaged in friendly small talk to our bartender while he was making our margaritas. After being asked where we were from and responding with, “Iowa” we got: “What is all there?”. I’ve gotten a variety of responses like this as I have traveled near and far but this one stuck with me. I tried my best to explain what Rachael and I do for a living and the town we reside in and how much there is to do in the summer. I think it worked? There’s a good chance this person was born and raised in the west coast and eventually made their way to Vegas and has never been anywhere else.
This one interaction inspired me to bring it to my writing and blog. I needed to emphasize The Vanessa Monologues highlights my life in Iowa when I’m not traveling the country and world. it goes back to my dream to be the female Anthony Bourdain; a world traveler but staying grounded in Iowa giving a glimpse of real North Iowa life to those who have never been here. It really is true to the rest of the world: you won’t understand Iowa unless you experience it and I hope to bring the experience to all of those I meet across throughout the states and globe.

It is summertime in Iowa and with the warmer weather brings more adventures and things to do. For this post I wanted to highlight this activity that my husband and I spend majority of the summer doing. I have been riding on the back of Tyler’s Harley ever since we started dating and it’s an activity we’ve always enjoyed doing together. Actually something we do with all of Tyler’s family. Sometimes we just get on the bike and go somewhere on a limb, majority of the summer though our destination(s) are determined by this book:

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(Stops/locations are on the first page. The map located at the top of this post shows where all the stops are!)

Every summer we participate in the Find Your Marbles Run: Purchase your book for $10. from Ernie Williams or Okoboji Harley Davidson (proceeds from book sales go to charity, MDA) and stop at as many of these stops listed in the book as you can. When you go to each stop, you draw from a bag of six different colored marbles. The color of the marble you draw is recorded in the book along with a stamp of the establishment or a signature of an employee who witnessed you draw that color. No one knows how much each color of marble is worth until the end when all books are turned in and they draw each marble randomly to see which is worth more points. When the colors are given point values, each book is tallied by how many of each color they drew. Top 10 Winners receive cash and gift certificates to Harley and other participating establishment on the run. Even if you don’t place in the top 10, if you show up for the awards dinner in late September you could still walk away with a gift certificate and a free meal too! So if you don’t win anything, you still got a meal out of it. Above all this run is set up to give the money it raises for charity. It’s fun and for a good cause.

We’ve found so many cool little hole in the wall places to eat and drink at that we didn’t know about until we did the ride. Several of these stops as a matter of fact will have their own posts from me in the future. Sometimes just the ride from each place to another is the best part. This past weekend, Tyler and I rode to Clear Lake, IA to pick up some marbles then decided to get another one farther away: in Marble Rock, IA. It only took us about 45 minutes to ride from PM Park in Clear Lake to Whitetails in Marble Rock. We both had the steak sandwich! Other than this place, I can’t think of any other reason why we would have traveled to Marble Rock, IA. A nice little stop with a mini golf course next door!
The Dodens at Whitetails in Marble Rock
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This post was the background information needed and also a preview of what is to come throughout the summer. Iowa seen on the back of Harley Davidson Night Train is fun and enjoyable even though my ass goes numb if I have to ride a long stretch. There is much good eats and beverages to share each stop along the way so if you want a random adventure to a town in Iowa you haven’t been, stay tuned!

One coat of sunscreen is never enough. Always reapply!!
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