Nowhere but forward…

It’s been noticeable that it has been quite some time that I’ve last written or posted anything; this is for good reason. Something’s been on going in my life relating to the post I wrote back in June about work and depression. I haven’t been able to really write anything because everything was so up in the air as I’ve tried to figure out how to change the situation I have been living in. Now I can finally write because even though I still don’t know for sure what I’m going to do at least I just know for a fact it’s nowhere but forward from here:

After months of dealing with my employer and a toxic, unorganized work environment, I decided after failed attempts of trying to transfer out of my department, I resigned from my job and put in my two weeks. At the time of my resignation, I had one interview in the town where I live done but nothing else lined up. During my final two weeks, I had another interview at somewhere 20 miles away but came in 2nd as another candidate got the job over me. So here I am, officially unemployed with nothing officially in place. Yes I am a little scared and worried but I know I’m capable of finding something.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make and when I explain to those who know me the best, they’ve seen what I’ve been going through over the past year and understand as they’ve seen my ups, downs and frustrations as my mental health deteriorated. I was originally going to make this decision in June but I just kept pushing through no matter how miserable I was because I knew as an adult I couldn’t just leave a full time job with benefits without having something else lined up. I planned to keep going but after one day when I had to deal with a lose lose situation my superior tried to put me in, I then decided enough was enough and I took this as my opportunity to leave on my terms. I couldn’t write and complain about my employer and still don’t want to do it even after I left but now at least I can write about how I plan on making a come back some how.

This week I’ve been taking care of my mental health by going to the Y every day, while I still have a Y membership that is, and start to write again as well as put my feelers out for jobs. I’m a part of the North Iowa Bloggers and I hope I can at least do something with my writing. At this time even focusin on writing is such a challenge. What makes me unique? I’m just another white girl who likes to travel but I don’t want to be another Samantha Brown, she sucks. At least I have my own personality and feel that women who host travel shows deserve to do what male travel show hosts do. I hope I can find a way to make my voice be heard for how different I am from all that want to do what I do for a living.

Right now I don’t know what I am going to do, all I know is I have to take one day at a time. I have hope and determination I will find something and have a job again no matter what I end up doing.

An Ode to the ‘Secret Hot Girls Club’…

Another random post while I’m riding along with my online grad course. The inspiration for this post came from one night being home alone with no TV to watch so I ended up binge watching some of my all time favorite shows, Sex and the City. (Hey it’s my thing, let it go). Watching some of the episodes reminded me of the past year and it also put me in the mood to get some of my gal pals together, actually dress up and go out for a great meal.

This past year in November I got three other ladies who also work at the same place as I do together for a weekend: we took Friday off then drove up to the cities spent the day shopping at the Premium Outlets in Eagen, then spent the night at the Hyatt Place in Downtown Minneapolis with a night out watching the Drag Shows and dancing at Gay 90s, and spent all day Saturday at the Mall of America before coming back home that night. Six months later we did another shopping trip but just spent all day up there and came back that same night. I have so much fun and hope we keep doing this or if someone can’t come at least have someone else in the mix to keep the magical group number of 4 ladies having fun! I called it our Waldorf Ladies Shopping Group but fellow member Samantha, suggested we call it the Secret Hot Girls Club! (Both of us also like watching That 70s Show and thought that name from one of the episodes was very fitting!)

I’m reminded that over the years, some of my best friends have relocated to outside of our local area and I found that these three other ladies have been through the same thing. But now two of our group members will no longer bu around the area come November if we decide to keep up with our bi annual Hot Girls shopping trip. Like I said all four of us have been separated from great friends but I see that I was lucky to befriend you all as a group for the time we had. You all are great biotches and I still think so even when I have to find replacements for you! Haha i kid! Maybe you all will be able to hang out with ‘old’ friends that you haven’t hung out with in forever or make new ones. At least as an adult I’ve gotten much better at making acquaintances and friends than I did even in college and I’m glad I’m doing this at this point in my life when everyone my age is having babies or has kids already.

If you ladies are reading, let’s get sexied up, have a nice meal and get silly. I have a new dress that is yet to be worn and tall black pumps that are just calling to go out for another night. Having gal pals is a great thing, it’s been awhile since I’ve had one of these nights so let’s do it! If any other ladies reading have that group of girls they love going out with, I hope you have a night out soon as well!

 

Gym Etiquette

I know I’m not the only one who wonders about how to interact with people when at the gym. Usually I put in my headphones and get in the zone. If I see someone I know, depending on who they are, I’ll give a nod and acknowledgement but not take them away from their workout or my own. I figure it’s polite that we are nice but also not making each other stop what we are doing.

Yesterday while doing the ab portion of my workout, a man next to me on a stationary bike seemed to be talking to me while I had my head phones in. At first I thought maybe he was talking to someone near us but it became apparent he was trying to speak to me. I took out my headphones and he asked while pointing at the tv, “Do you go to Waldorf? Did you see that?!?” There was a news story about how Waldorf now has a snapchat filter with Warrick, our mascot. I replied to him that I’m not a student but work there and yes I saw that today. He continued to rave about it with ‘Wow’s’ and other such words. Man he was really excited about that Snapchat filter.

Now I don’t get annoyed when I still get mistaken for a student, I’m 30 so it’s nice to know I could still pass off for someone in their early 20s but come on! I can’t look that young, could I?!?I agree it’s a good problem to have but are people like him for real?!? I was just more annoyed he interrupted my ab time to talk about something that isn’t a big deal to me. Please tell me I’m not alone that I feel you don’t stop a stranger with headphones in during a workout.

Please don’t be the filter guy….

 

Be a lion, or dragon, or Wonder Woman. Whatever you need to be!

(Image not mine, found on Google)

Last week I finally was able to go see Wonder Woman with my hubby on a weeknight date night. After hearing good reviews and also reports that Gal Gadot did all her reshoots for the movie at five months pregnant (so badass!), I was even more excited for its awesomeness! I was not disappointed or let down by this film to say the least!! Wonder Woman was portrayed how she was meant to be: strong, fearless, determined, and even the costume choices and story line showed that. It was refreshing to see her like that as opposed to the very corny Wonder Woman from the 70s tv show.

I got a little depressed when Diana arrived in London in the 1940s after being on Paradise Island with the rest of the Amazon women for the whole of her life. Being on the island inhabited only by women, women did everything that men could do: hunt, fight, train, ride horses, etc. Living in that environment, Diana knew no limits on what she could do or was capable of. Anything that needed to be done, she could make it happen. From the moment she arrived in London, it was clear that women had to look a certain way, behave a certain way and there were certain places that she just couldn’t be. Diana persisted with insisting she needed to be on the front line fighting with Steve and it was just heartbreaking when he told her the hard truth of them not being able to help everyone.

I have to admit that I teared up while watching the scene where she first appears in her Wonder Woman armor on the battlefield walking into the field of gunfire. I did my best to hide the tears so my husband wouldn’t see and judge me even though I’m sure the two small shot bottles of rum I put in my fountain pop cup had something to do with them. Tyler doesn’t judge me harshly, I say that with humor because he knows sometimes I’m a giant nerd filled with corny. Ha ha. Anyway back to the battle scene where Diana reveals herself as Wonder Woman on earth for the first time: even though she was discouraged and told ‘No’ she still walked into war, fearless, strong, and untouchable as the bullets just ricocheted off her. She ignored how women were defined and told to act and behave; she faced danger because she knew what she was capable of even when no one would believe it. It was just an amazing moment to experience.

I needed to see this movie after what I’ve been through the past couple of months. Even though today isn’t like the London Diana came to in the 1940s, I’ve still have experienced being treated differently for being a woman on a professional level. I’ve felt that there’s nothing I can do about it: if I try and stand up for myself and fight then I’m too demanding but if I sit back and let it happen, I’m weak. For the whole of my summer, laying in bed in the morning after my husband leaves for work, I kept feeling there is no point to leave this bed other than to take care of our puppy. If I were to go to work, I’m just invisible and what I do doesn’t matter because what a man does it more important than anything I’m doing. How can I be successful if I can’t trust or respect those above me? Everything has just seemed hopeless. It just breaks my heart that even in 2017 this is still a thing.

I’m lucky to have a mentor through work that shared with me, “When everyone else is a sheep or wolf disguised as a sheep, be a lion.” Very good words I needed to hear, I just knew I was nowhere near lion material in my current state of depression and self defeat. Watching this movie was the encouragement I needed to begin the step out of my mental condition. It was also in this past week that while watching Game of Thrones (my favorite show of all time!) that a scene coincidentally spoke to me the same way. Olenna Tyrell gave Daenerys Targaryen some sound advice that is now being shared all over the internet as encouragement to women: “I’ve know a great many cleaver men. I’ve outlived them all. Do you know how? I ignored them. The lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon.”

Be any or all of these things: a lion, dragon or Wonder Woman; whatever you have to be in order to survive! If not one of these then whoever the F you want to be! For the past few months I haven’t been surviving or even barely living. I can’t go on living like a emotionless zombie, I have to survive to be a survivor. I need to come out on the other side of this period of my life as my own Mother of Dragons or Queen of the Amazons. Even though I don’t know how to get there, I know I can and it’s possible!

Women are capable of doing anything and we can’t let hearing ‘no’ or any preconceived notions of how we are supposed to be or act stop us from walking into a battle that we know we are capable of fighting in. And dammit we also know we look good while doing it!

 

The Lodge of Forest City

Anyone who has followed me on social media since March has seen how often I’ve posted or raved about the Lodge Restaurant. The name isn’t a new one as the establishment has been around for nearly 30 years. A residence turned into a hotel and restaurant resort off Highway 69 in Forest City, the name came to represent fine dining and accommodations; where you would go for a fancy sit down meal or recommend someone stay from out of town. In the late 2000s after the economic recession, the Lodge was sold from its original owner Winnebago Industries and it has changed hands several times over the course of 10 years. Whenever you would see the Lodge was for sale or sold in the community paper, you hoped that whoever would take it on would restore it to it’s former glory or at least something that works for our town. New ownership brought with it new restaurant management in November of 2016. When I finally visited the Lodge under new ownership in March of 2017, I can honestly say not only did they bring back the atmosphere of fine dining but the restaurant is better than ever!!

On March 9th, 2017 I achieved a quarter life goal of mine when I made my final student loan payment! I texted my husband to ask if he could have the night off (at the time he still worked on 2nd shift while I work days) and we could celebrate! He only was able to get half of the night off meaning he had to be back in at 7 PM. I really wanted to splurge on very nice meal for the both of us on me and wasn’t sure if I could do that in town when we only had two hours from 5 PM when I got off work to 7 when he had to be back. Both of us remembered The Lodge had reopened and since neither of us had been there since it happened, we decided it would be the perfect spot for the night.

From the moment we walked in until we left, I can’t say enough how much I loved everything about it. The dining room has a gorgeous view of the river and golf course and we were sat by the window. We started with a glass of house red and I ordered the cheese board as an appetizer; three different types of cheese and baguettes, some imported. The cheese addict in me was very satisfied. We were surprised that each dinner came with an ‘amuse’ (sorry if I’m butchering the name/spelling), tonight it was a jalopeno glazed deviled egg. Very tasty! Both Tyler and I ordered the Ribeye De Burgo which came with potatoes and vegetables. The taste and proportions were perfect! You won’t leave here hungry or too full! To conclude the meal, each guest receives a chocolate truffle which the head chef spends hours on so they can reach perfection!

After this meal, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much of an excellent experience it was and I was so upset that I didn’t take any pictures! I noticed a new lounge area was built upstairs and used this as my excuse to come back the following week. On Tuesday I would post to Instagram this picture:

The caption read: I’m drinking a martini in an actual martini glass in Forest City! Dreams do come true!! I decided this would be my new favorite place to have a drink when I’m by myself.

Thursday I came back and decided to try some appetizers at the bar:
  
I tried the Escargot as well as the Ricotta board. Way more food for one person but if you want to have fun on a budget, an appetizer is enough food for one person.
That following Saturday night, Tyler and I stopped back for drinks at the bar making it my third visit in a week span. We were able to get to know the Executive Chef Josh Hayes while bonding over our collective love of Cabernet. Chef Josh studied in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu and has been all over the world so it’s always fascinating to talk to him. Tyler and I love to hear his stories and appreciate his modern, forward thinking and what it has done for this establishment and essentially this town.

Lunch and Dinner Menu (has since been updated but more on that later)

The next week Saturday when Tyler suggested the Lodge for dinner and I didn’t put up a fight. Not saying that we fight over were to eat but I know we aren’t the only couple that at times cannot decide where to eat!!

Our amuse were duck wontons and I forgot about the loaf of bread that comes with each meal! My mouth is watering as I write this! We ordered the grilled shrimp as an appetizer and as you can see we scarfed it down before I remembered to take a photo. (Yes they are that good)

On to the main course: I had the ribeye de burgo again so I could get a photo of it. Tyler ordered the lamb chop and said it was sooo very tender.

The next morning I would take my parents for Brunch at the Lodge. Yes they have brunch and I was proud of myself for eating there twice in less than 24 hours!
Brunch menu:

As you can see, this is a wonderful, made fresh brunch meal and not a buffet. What’s even better is their Mimosas and bloody Mary’s!
 My parents and I each had a mimosa.
I wasn’t sure what to try as everything looked amazing! There’s a chicken infused waffle on the menu! My mom and dad both went on the lunch side of things and ordered a BLT:

Since this was brunch, I always tend to lean more to the breakfast type of food. I chose the Eggs Benedict. You can have them traditional with hollandaise or with crab cakes or salmon. I chose with crab cakes.. BEST DECISION!!

After brunch was over, this had officially been my sixth visit to the Lodge from March 7th to March 26th. However before the month was over, I came again and had lunch with a friend. I had the Ceasar salad, which comes with anchovies on top and I decided to add chicken to it.

I can’t tell people enough who haven’t been here yet to TRY IT OUT!!! It may be a little more than what people pay for a nice meal out but it really is worth every penny. I guarantee it will be one of best meals of your life!

Starting in April, Josh has updated the menu to have a more spring/ summer lineup. While there are still some things from the fall/winter menu, it’s entirely different and all good! Of course, Tyler and I have already tried it! I tried the Mediterranean pasta with grilled shrimp. I never though that purple pasta that resembled Medusa’s hair could be so tasty!

There also has been a separate bar menu added since then as well which boosts, appetizers, lighter entrees and lighter fair. My friend Maggie and myself were just there for the bar menu: I had the Lodge Salad and she had the special of the night: a Gyro with frites. Both of us enjoyed our meals!

As you can see this place is one of my obsessions and I feel so lucky to have it in my town of Forest City. It really is unique and I hope our local people of the area come and support it so it can stay around for many more years!!!

 

My Biggest Critic

 
(Images not mine, found on Google)

These gifs were from an episode I saw of Maron, a show about self proclaimed asshole and pod cast host Marc Maron. This exchange made me laugh when I saw it, so you can see there’s a little bit of ‘dark’ humor. I enjoyed this bit mostly because it’s exactly how I’ve felt at times throughout my life.

I’ve dealt with insecurity, doubt, anxiety, depression, throughout my life but with each encounter being different. In middle school and high school I experienced many high and lows as I navigated through my adolescence: puberty, hormones, pre teen girls being mean to each other, teenagers being general assholes to each other, BOYS, (because what else do teen girls obsess over?!? its the hormones…) and not feeling like I fit in at home or at school. Just a loner in life.

Depression came in the form of being very emotional and feeling that life was so hard when in reality it wasn’t. The emotions ranged from the sadness of why do I have to be different to self loathing. They tried teaching us in middle school to “Just be yourself” but that logic seemed impossible. I just didn’t know how to be myself when I felt attacked for doing just so. Insecurity would tell me “You are weird and no one will like you” or “you are pathetic because you don’t have friends!” A couple of times in middle school I would hide in the girls bathroom at lunch because I had no one to sit with after a group of so called ‘friends’ began to bully me with notes, destroying my locker or shoving me into it. I eventually moved into adulthood and out of my teenage angst and the extension of teenage angst you get in college and after graduation. When wondering if you just wasted four years and will end up working a minimal paying job for the rest of your life. I was lucky and got an entry level job a year after graduating so life seemed to be go in the right direction.

Three months before I turned 25, while working at said entry level job (my first) I became one of five employees whom were laid off due to budget cuts that year. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to live through, like the rug just got pulled out from underneath me. The two months that followed as I job searched, I felt my mental health slowly began to deteriorate. I didn’t feel as emotional as I did as a teenager but some feelings of sadness were present as I mostly felt worthless. When you have no job to get up for in morning you begin to wonder what your purpose in life is? Why am I here if I’m not doing anything? The insecurity kicks in and you think, “I am not enough”. After three months of not working, I finally was able to get hired for a part time job at the local Pizza Hut (when it was still open). I was still considered ‘unemployed’ as I worked there and continued to find something full time. I had less than a year before I turned 26 and would be kicked off my Mom’s health insurance. Working at Pizza Hut, though it was a job, you got to see the true attitudes of people, including the ones still at the organization who laid you off. I felt very looked down upon, like I was nothing. Whenever I had to serve people from my old job, I had to smile and be polite even when they treated me like like I was below them. It was so hard not to tell them, “You could be me right now!”. That year of being unemployed and going through part time jobs before I finally found a full time position one year after the layoff was one my low points in life. I felt worthless and just dead weight as I worked to bring in money to support myself in my apartment. The insecurity went hand in hand with the doubt and uncertainty if I was going to be good enough to work full time again.

Fast forward five years later to me in present day. I have learned that depression can come in a new form I haven’t ever experienced before: with no emotions at all. I have been at my job for over two years, I was very happy to get hired when I did and things were going great. No job is perfect and I’ve had my bad days but they always ended and I carried on by just coming to work and doing my work. When my boss was placed on military leave coming up on two years ago, it hasn’t been the same since. We were appointed an interim director a year ago and thing have been going downhill since then. He truly is the worst I have ever had. It wasn’t until early this year when I realized I could be mentally depressed. I have flash backs to the year I went through a layoff and my anxiety is flaring up as I fear for the worst even when it may not come.

In our culture when we meet someone, one of the first questions asked is, “So what do you do for a living?” What we do defines who we are essentially. Or our worth is tied to what we do for a living. With the changes our new boss is making, the daily works and tasks are being shifted and when I come into work now I feel like there is no point to me being here. Each day gets harder to get out of bed when I feel worthless and no point to me doing what I do. Insecurity pops its head in and I begin to think “I’m not enough” or “I’m not smart or talented enough to do anything worthwhile”. The most frustrating aspect of all of this is I don’t want to leave my organization where I work: I love it and feel like I belong. I want to retire from here someday like everyone I see recognized at our annual employee dinner. I want to be one of those that have done 30-35 years here. It’s a struggle because I feel like I could just not show up to work and it wouldn’t really matter because after the organizational changes, there is no point to me being here anymore. I feel numb and emotionless throughout my work week and it continues to increase with every passing day as there’s no hope of any other openings in another department. My insecurity and lack of confidence will jeopardize my changes of passing an interview. It’s really hard to care about your job or work when the person in charge above you doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything. I really do feel like I’m stuck with no way out and in the last month after a co worker left, it’s become more clear that I am mentally depressed even when I have so much going for me now. I had to realize that even when I don’t think of death or suicide, the zombie like state isn’t any healthier. I am so scared and sad about those feelings of worthlessness take over my life. I don’t want to end up unemployed in this area like I was five years ago. It really was a struggle to get where I am today and I don’t want to go through that again where I have the rug pulled out from me and I have to start from rock bottom.

This post isn’t to get sympathy or to hear people say, “I’m so sorry” but more of a notice that depression can come and strike in ways you didn’t know it could. You see many sad cases of famous people who struggle with depression or mental illness even with fame, money and success. I hope this post can help connect with others who are in my shoes and are experiencing depression in their adulthood. I also have hope that I’ll figure something else out to feel like my existence has a purpose again. Until then, I know I can’t go on with the feelings I’ve had everyday for a month: “I hate myself”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m worthless”, etc

Today I was very close to not coming in and just snuggle with my dog Nikki on the sofa. Puppy therapy is very life saving!!

 

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.