The Literal Grapes of Wrath

2019 sucks. It has been a hard year and it’s only April, so if that’s any indication of how the next 8 months are going to go, I will just go throw myself off a bridge right now and save myself the trouble. Obviously, I wouldn’t really do that, but God almighty, it’s been rough these last four months.

I am by no means a superstitious person, but I’m tracking all of this horrendous bad luck to New Year’s Eve. As part of Spanish tradition, we eat 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of the year on this night; starting at 11:59:48, if you get all 12 grapes down, you are supposed to have good luck all 12 months of the new year. In the past, I of course have not been able to eat all 12, and some years I’ve eaten them all and didn’t win the lottery or anything. There was one year where my mom bought grapes that were the circumference of silver dollars, and needless to say, we all almost choked and got nowhere near finishing 12 grapes. We’ve done this every year, even on years when we’re apart or at a party somewhere (yes, I’ve taken a sandwich baggie of 12 grapes over to people’s houses for NYE parties). You just don’t break tradition.

This year, Timmy and I celebrated at our home in St. Pete after a winter break of driving all over the place, like always. We began December with a trip to the Bahamas with our good friends who were escaping the Chicago winter. I ended up having a 24 hour stomach bug the last day there.

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Then over the winter break in Atlanta, I had a terrible cold and needed my weight in Sudafed and went through 2 boxes of tissues. We took a quick trip to NC with our good friends Mathew and Lucie and enjoyed a lot of time with family.

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Then NYE came upon us when that terrible thing happened and it’s been a rapid descent into hell on earth since then.

Timmy and I both do the grapes tradition on NYE. Usually I can at least get them in my mouth, if not fully swallowed and digested, which is close enough. This year, I wasn’t able to get 4 down. They were just sitting in the sandwich bag, mocking me. I immediately said (after swallowing the 8 I had been able to eat), “Shit, I’m going to have a really bad 4-months in 2019!” 

No truer words have ever been spoken in the history of ever.

A few weeks into January, I got a concussion. I was in our work break room, moving food for an event from the freezer to the fridge when I stood up and my head went right into the bottom of the freezer door. I’m almost passed out and immediately felt nauseated. The next day, I had a conference in DC. My second day of the conference, I started to slur my words, speak slowly, and had basically no ability to focus or concentrate, so I made my way to the ER. 45 minutes later, I was diagnosed with a head injury (no shit) and was discharged. That lovely bill came later and with insurance, I (now my worker’s compensation) owe nearly $700…for 45 minutes. Insane. I did get to see some of my friends so there was a wonderful upside to that trip, but the conference was kind of a bust. 

The next few weeks, we were able to see some friends at Disney and Anna Maria, and finally got to see Hamilton for Timmy’s birthday (which totally lived up to the hype, it was that incredible). Honestly, I’ve been so underwater this semester from working full time, teaching class, and taking 6 credits online, I can’t really remember many details from visiting with our friends in the first place. Add in that concussion, and let’s just say it was all really fun.

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I recovered over the next few weeks and in February, nearly a month to the day of the first concussion, I got yet another concussion.

I’m not kidding you. Timmy and I were attempting to go paddleboarding but it was an extremely windy day. I was on the driver’s side of the car when Timmy tried to lift the top paddleboard off my car and the wind took it from there, right into the backside of my head. In what should’ve been complete whiplash, I fell to the ground and couldn’t really move much. A kind stranger witnessed the whole thing, and while Timmy rushed to secure back the paddleboards so they didn’t fly off again, she stayed with me and eventually helped me walk back, very shakily, to the car. I didn’t have to go to the ER then because I was still recovering from the first concussion, so any additional symptoms would’ve been same ole same ole at that point.

My immediate reaction on the car ride home was, “God, I don’t want to be dumb.” After all the concussions and CTE news, I was and am still pretty concerned that after surviving an entire childhood with no concussions, I have had 3 in 6 years (2 from paddleboards, oddly enough). I can’t deal with memory loss, lowered intelligence, and random bursts of anger, y’all, I got stuff to accomplish!

Then the last Monday of February, which was the beginning of Spring Wellness Week, a week of wellness-related events that I’m completely responsible for, I woke up at 3 am with what I thought was food poisoning. As the day wore on and I was unable to go to work, I realized that something about this was different.

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know it’ll be gone in 24 hours and it has you wishing for death. A trip anywhere other than the bathroom is not to be attempted nor could it be without you vomiting and/or shitting your pants. However, I ended up in the ER again for what we think now was a stomach virus that had me in tears, doubled over in pain from muscle spasms in my upper abdomen due to all the heaving and purging. The entire week after, I couldn’t eat anything but bland foods and soup (which I can’t stand) and my intestines were so distended, I looked 5 months pregnant.

All of this should’ve been enough, right? Like any normal person would’ve been greatly affected by just one of these things happening, let alone all 3 in 2 months.

But I’m not done yet.

Two weeks later, we went to Panama with my entire family for spring break. We were able to see so much of my dad’s side there, and honestly it was a great trip. The timing was horrendous though because I had been spending most Sundays up until then back in my office, trying to catch up on schoolwork, and Timmy really needed to be in the states for his work. But all in all, throw in hotel upgrades in Panama City and again in Buenaventura (this time, to a 4 bedroom villa that could’ve housed everyone), it really was a super fun time.

We took a 9-hour tour that took us on a boat on the Panama Canal, fed some monkeys on Monkey Island, saw the Fort of San Lorenzo, walked across one of the locks of the Panama Canal, and witnessed a large ship crossing through the Agua Clara locks of the Canal. I remember when I was much younger watching the Panama Canal ship crossing and not really being super into it, but now as an adult, that thing is an engineering marvel and really interesting to see in person.

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The rest of March passed by hitting my allergies HARD. I have never bought so much Sudafed (and I’m talking the meth-making kind), Mucinex, and tissues IN MY LIFE COLLECTIVELY than in the last 6 months. I couldn’t breathe, sleep was a distant memory, I was sneezing every 5 minutes, and then the drainage…Oh the drainage.

Then April hit, and the shitstorm just kept rolling. I am on Marco Polo with a bunch of my grad school girlfriends and while they were all marveling at my ridiculous string of bad luck, I told them, “What’s the worst that can happen from here on out? A bone break?”

OMG I WAS SO WRONG.

Two weeks ago, someone hacked my Amazon account and reloaded my gift card balance using my credit card to $100, no doubt to use the gift card balance themselves. I caught this, and Amazon removed it. I went on a few days later after changing my password and bought a few things, not realizing that those items had been charged to my newly uploaded gift card balance AGAIN. Apparently, they rehacked my account after the password change, but I used up the balance before they could.

Then, I woke up last Tuesday morning to 25 emails from Amazon, each thanking me for purchasing Playstation gift cards in various amounts from $25 to $50 through the night, totaling almost $400 worth of charges. Even though this dumbass dude (and yes, I’m saying it’s a man) used my Decatur billing address AND the fact that I’ve never purchased anything Playstation related in the close to 15 years I’ve been on Amazon, the dude got his gift cards and spent the amounts quickly because you receive the redemption codes upon purchase.

Another thing this asshole did was use my account to upload trade-in items. I guess when you trade-in items on Amazon, you get paid immediately for them, which is what he used to transfer to my gift card balance and used them right away. I started getting emails saying that I had 16 days to send in the trade-in items, but guess what…I don’t actually have any of those items. So I had to spend an entire morning with Amazon, making sure my account was labeled as unauthorized use, and closed down temporarily for 2 days, after which I could create a new password and start using it again.

I have to admit, the hacker used a brilliant tactic to ensure that he got free stuff and never had it tracked back to him because guess what is nonrefundable on Amazon? Gift cards and gaming purchases!

At this point, I’m sure you’re thinking, “God damn Victoria, that’s enough! I hope your string of bad luck has ended!”

BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG.

Last Thursday, while Timmy was traveling for work, I was really really wanting ice cream so I got in my car with Floyd to satisfy my late evening craving. As soon as I started the car, I, without thinking, reached down to close the garage door as I was backing out. Yes, I have sensors to stop the door, but my tires hadn’t reached them yet. By the time I realized what I had done and quickly put my car in forward drive, the garage door clipped the top of my car and bent the bottom panel, pulling the door off the tracks.

Almost about to cry, I thought to myself, “Fuck it. I already broke it. Ice cream, I’m coming for you!”

The next day, I had one of those national garage companies come to give me an estimate, and as soon as I saw these young, smug, white dudes walk up, I knew they were going to tell me I needed a new garage door. They quoted me $1000 for a new door that would’ve looked nothing like Timmy’s garage door, which obviously wouldn’t have worked, especially because of our HOA. So in essence, they were telling me I needed to pay $2000 for 2 new garage doors. I told them no, and as soon as they left, I called this other guy I had used once before when I bent the upper panel of my garage door (it was right after we moved in. Again, my fault, because I didn’t park my car in far enough). He came 1 hour later, fixed it in 1 hour and it was $175.

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My quick thinking at least saved me from a moronic sales pitch. I like to imagine that without 2 concussions, I would never have broken the door in the first place, so let’s leave it at that.

I left my Amazon account alone for nearly 6 days, and then I changed my password this Monday. Lo and behold, not even 5 hours later, during my evening class, I got an email thanking me for the $10 Xbox gift card purchase and redemption I had done! So yet, again, I had to spend more time with Amazon doing the exact same thing as before.

Suffice it to say, I haven’t gone on Amazon since.

April, you have 2 more weeks. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. These grapes of wrath have taken their toll on me, and I’m the most overwhelmed, moody, and stressed I’ve ever been in my life (wedding planning not included bc I wasn’t also hit with a bunch of medical issues during it). Like I said, I’m not superstitious, but 4 grapes not eaten, 4 horrific months of 2019…there has to be a connection and I’m over it.

I turn 36 in two and a half weeks, and all I’m wishing for at this point is no more head injuries. Happy. birthday. to. me.

♥, VB

Mainely on the Nubs

I am so completely in love with my friends. Even when I don’t get to see them regularly, it’s like no time has passed when we get together. They are the best group of people I could ever know, and on more than one occasion, have saved my life both physically and mentally.

My grad school girlfriends in particular kill me in the best way possible. When we are together, we experience the most side-splitting laughter, tears of empathy, and emotional connection that leaves us so fulfilled at the end of our time together. Those are the kinds of friendships that sustain you, leave you excited to see each other again, but independent enough to need our own lives…because let’s be honest, living our own lives gives us better stories to share the next time we see each other!

In the past, we’ve visited Charleston, Colorado, DC, San Diego, and any trip we take that one of us is unable to attend, we will simply print out a picture of their head, attach it to a stick, and take pictures with our absentee floating head of a friend. Our trips aren’t as often as they were when we were in grad school, but now we definitely don’t pile 9 people into a 1 bedroom place anymore. We’re grown ass women now after all.

We planned our trip to Maine nearly a year before because Mel was pregnant and ready to get the hell out into the world with adults. We actually end up planning many of our trips WAY ahead of time because our group is filled with type-A planners, whom many of which now have children. And we all know I love a good plan, so I was down immediately. We planned it the weekend after Labor Day, which was excellent timing since I hadn’t really gotten too deep in my doctoral program yet. However, my full time job was a different story, and by the time this trip rolled around, even though we were only 3 weeks into the semester, I felt ready to drown.

Once I landed in Boston, I was of course, the last one. And I mean like 1 am, last one. Nidia, Handy, and Lauren were all waiting for me, and once I got in the car, it was a freaking sitcom of a shitshow watching us try to get out of Boston. I swear, that city and its roads have been under construction for like 25 years. We at one point were seriously driving in a circle trying to find an exit, and at some point, we ran over a skunk, which should just sum up what driving in the Boston area is truly like.

We decided to take a few day trips while making our homebase in York, Maine. It didn’t hold any special meaning, other than it was 1 hour from Boston, and about 1-2 hours from other sites we could do in a day. We had originally thought up a plan to drive to Acadia National Park, which would’ve meant nearly 7 hours of driving in one day. See, this is what happens when you plan things far ahead AND you still think you’re 18 years old. When we got together that weekend, we all immediately were like, WHAT THE EFF WERE WE THINKING, and decided on another idea quickly.

All in all, we made as much of the weekend as we could, while also taking the time to relax, sleep in a little bit, and enjoy each other’s company. We rented two cars and had assigned seating in those cars the whole weekend (not intentionally, but it worked out well). Mel found the house in AirBnb, and it was completely amazing. Enough bedrooms and bathrooms for 7 women, 2 of whom were sick, so we quarantined them in the upstairs, pirate-themed bedroom. Lauren and I shared a room and our view was beautiful! It was walking distance to the Nubble Lighthouse and the quaint little town of York.

Our first day, we just explored York. It’s small but oh so freaking cute. I have to say how proud I was of myself when we went grocery shopping and I guessed our total amount so closely that I was only off by 75 cents! Go me! We visited the Lighthouse, which we didn’t know you can’t actually get to. So we looked at it from afar, and got some yummy lobster because duh, you’re in Maine. We also took a walk along the coast, and you gotta love a New England coast. So incredibly different from Florida, but beautiful nonetheless.

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The next day, we drove to Portland, ME. Our first stop was a bathroom, and we ducked into a tea shop for it. It was crazily enough, one of the most memorable places we’ve ever been, because if there’s ever been a tea shop with its head up its own ass, it was this one, Dobra Tea. We had to ring a bell to get service at our table, we couldn’t order a tea for the table then ask for it to go because the sizes were somehow different, and honestly, I didn’t know what the hell 75% of the teas were anyways. I just got chamomile and a cookie.

We ended up at a sandwich shop, Sisters Gourmet Deli, right around the corner, and it was DELISH. Highly recommended. We walked around for a bit, went to the Liquid Riot brewery, an outside gallery, and then tried to go to Portland Head Lighthouse right before it closed. Only half of our group made it, the other half (my half) went into a private neighborhood, snapped some pictures of the lighthouses we could see, then went to dinner at Bao Bao (again, highly recommended as well). This is also how many of our trips go: we base our walking on food and drink stops. Isn’t that how everyone plans their vacations??

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Our last day, on our way back to Boston to catch all our flights, we stopped at Portsmouth, NH. I feel like I had been there in college, but I can hardly remember anything (thanks antidepressants), so even if I had been there, it was a brand new experience this time around. We were only there for about an hour, but man, I just can’t get enough of these little New England towns. The history, the bricks, the sights…just too beautiful. Our first stop was a coffee shop, and I was so confused when I saw that the  names of all the pastries in the display case were in German. Once we walked outside and I actually read the name of the GERMAN coffee house, it all made sense (and clearly I needed that coffee for reals).

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We all left on our flights that afternoon, and it was done. Our trip we’d planned so well and efficiently was over, and thankfully I have these amazing photos to remember it by.

Some of these ladies discovered Marco Polo a few years ago, which is a video chat app that allows you to record yourself, send it to one person or a group, and the video waits for the person in the app until they can get on and see it. I resisted. And resisted some more. I refused to download one more app that required me to figure out how to use it. Then during this trip, I acquiesced and it’s been one of the better choices I’ve made (I’m looking at you, stupid Snapchat). Since we left Maine, we’ve been in constant contact, and it makes it that much better when you can see each other’s faces regularly.

I can’t wait for our next trip. This being Thanksgiving week and all, man am I grateful for amazing girlfriends who only make my life better. Thank you ladies, I love you so much.

♥, VB

Cruisin’ into Stress

So this post has sat in draft form for nearly 3 months because as usual, life got in the way. Because the outside world keeps stressing me the hell out, I thought now would be as good a time as any to relieve our big cruise vacation at the end of July.

We had originally planned on going to Belize with another couple and those plans fell through pretty quickly. My boss didn’t let me take the original start date of the vacation off after all, and then we waited too long and the couple couldn’t go. We thought about what else we could do since we could still take a week off, but just not go to Belize anymore since we also waited too long to get our money refunded (don’t worry, we used the credit for a trip to the Bahamas in December, so it all worked out just fine).

I ended up finding a 7-night cruise that took us from Fort Lauderdale, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, to Cozumel aboard the Caribbean Princess from Princess Cruise Lines.

I absolutely LOVE cruises! There’s just something about boarding and not having to worry about anything: no driving, no taking luggage all over the place, no having to worry about drinking or where to eat or how to get to different places. You just get on the boat, unpack, and let the ship take you to the next location.

With the exception of maybe 4 major cruise lines, I’ve now been on them all at least once. I had never been on Princess but had only heard good things, so we booked and off we went!

And it wasn’t that great.

Let’s just say that the week started with me PMS-ing haaaaaarrrdd, and I wasn’t exactly the most delightful person to be around. Combine that with Timmy’s incessant lateness, and we didn’t have the best start or middle part to the trip. It was like the perfect storm of ugh.

The boat was beautiful but old, and many areas really REALLY needed an update. Our room was in the very back with a beautiful view and a huge balcony, but other than that, it was very late 80s in decor and nothing incredibly special.

Added to this delightful mix was the HORRID customer service we received from most of the wait staff at nearly all the locations except the specialty restaurants that cost extra,  the lackluster food selection, and we were left totally underwhelmed. And we spent a pretty penny on this trip, from the additional packages, massages, drinks, room, and food…just 100% disappointing all around.

We actually left one dinner early and ended up skipping our last two nights of the main dining service because our servers were just that bad. I’ve really never experienced anything like the service we had on board. At all the bars, the coffee places, the frozen yogurt spot, all of it was terrible. I’ve had better service on Carnival, which is just for like spring breakers and 20 year olds. I’ve had better service anywhere but Princess.

But let’s not dwell on the bad (believe me, we did enough of that on the trip). The excursions were the saving grace of our trip. Everything we did on port was something active and totally worth it. We’re usually not excursion people because they cost so much most of the time, but this trip we agreed we wanted to see the sites in a unique and active way.

Our first stop was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We’d both been here before, so we decided to sign up for a bike ride around the town, which was super fun. We saw the major sights (including the Turtle sanctuary we stopped at during our Disney Cruise 5 years ago), sweated a ton, but definitely spent a unique afternoon seeing Georgetown!

Our next stop was Roatán, Honduras. I had never thought to go to Honduras, but this little tiny island was so interesting. We took about an hour-long ride to get to the other side which was totally uninhabited and free of most tourists. We passed through some of the most abject poverty I’ve seen. It’s always so hard to go these types of places but you know tourism is their main economy so support is necessary. This day, we did horseback riding in the ocean, which is an item we can now safely check off the bucket list. The views were incredible, the staff was amazing there, and we had a really relaxing, memorable time there.

The next day we were in Belize City, Belize, which, if you can believe it, English is the main language spoken there! We were so surprised, expecting to speak in Spanish first, which we still did because practice makes perfect. In Belize, we booked a zip-line tour of the jungle and underground cave tubing adventure. It took us almost an hour and a half to reach our location but the tour guide was one of the best we’ve ever had because it only felt like 30 minutes! We learned a crazy amount of information, like most Belizeans had kept panthers as pets before an educational campaign told them this wasn’t the best idea, most Florida orange juice contains a majority of Belizean oranges, and more! After our adventure above and below, we got some fresh coconuts (yum!) and when we did the additional rum, the bartender went overboard and I’m pretty sure my coconut ended up being 70% rum.

Our last stop was Cozumel, Mexico. I’ve been here, honestly, I don’t even know how many times. It’s such a popular cruise stop, and I’ve done the bar drinking, partying, and seeing the ruins before. Timmy had seen ruins in Belize in high school, so we made the decision together to do something totally different and took a cooking class instead.

This ended up being my favorite day the entire trip! We each had our own stations, and there were only 5 of us there: one other much older couple, a woman from Montreal, and us. We made delicious food from start to finish (nearly. It would have been even better if we’d been able to make our tortillas from scratch) and the staff was amazing.

The best part was when they learned I spoke Spanish. You would’ve thought I was a goddess who came down from heaven, the way they treated me. It made me laugh so hard because it reminded me of our senior year trip to Cancun when my mother and her best friend were our chaperones. One night, they went to dinner and when the staff learned that they were Spanish, OMG, it was like their own personal spring break. The waiters were just lavishing attention on them, giving them an entirely free bottle of Bailey’s, and were just crazy about them!

The chefs were all about me, let me tell you. If I ever need a self-confidence boost, I know EXACTLY were to go! 🙂

We also didn’t factor in the fact that we live in a beach town year-round now. When we went on our last cruise, we lived in hell-hole Lakeland, so a Caribbean trip was oh-so-needed. This time, we were like, “Oh cool, more hot weather. Nice, more palm trees. Cool, clear blue water again…” Not to sound jaded, but St. Pete is amazing and we’re no longer in that head-space where a trip in the Caribbean is a needed getaway.

Unfortunately, the cruise brought some crazy news regarding both Timmy and my jobs that undid any relaxation our amazing massages gave us (and they were no doubt, the best massages we have ever had). I’d give this trip overall a C+. It certainly wasn’t our worst trip together, but it definitely doesn’t land amongst the best (other than our excursions, which truly were memorable and awesome).

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our anniversary package

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one of the last nights on the cruise

Oh well, we can’t win them all, can we?

♥, VB

The Horror of Today

I would say 75% of my friends on Facebook are parents. I know because all I see are a never ending parade of pictures of them with their children every time I’m online. Pictures of teeth lost, of birthdays and swim lessons and first and last days of school. Memories and love all documented for the world to see.

Now, I’m not assuming that many of them don’t care about what’s going on because of their lack of comment on FB. However, the lack of commentary in a public forum on the abhorrent practice that is going on right now is concerning enough. One would think that something as relatable as having a family would be something that could unite parents into doing what’s best for the child.

I’m not a parent and I’m quite frankly sick to my stomach.

Lately, I literally cannot decide what I need to be more outraged by with this current administration and I’m starting to get pretty fatigued, as I’m sure you all are. But we can’t just stop caring, especially when it’s as fundamentally a human rights violation as SEPARATING PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN. Whatever you believe on immigration and the rights of immigrants, this practice is WRONG. Christian-defined wrong, Islamic-defined wrong, Judaism-defined wrong, ALL RELIGIONS-defined wrong.

There is no middle ground here on deciding the morality of this practice. IT IS WRONG.

Dozens of “Families Belong Together” rallies are planned for Thursday, June 14, to protest the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Above, a rally on June 1 in Manhattan. Spencer Platt/Getty Images 

The fact that something that is also fundamental to our country, like separation of church and state, is also being ignored by this current administration is killing me. How dare our Attorney General use the Bible to justify any piece of this atrocious practice. HOW DARE ANY OF YOU TRY TO JUSTIFY THIS BY SAYING IT’S ABOUT DEMOCRATS AND LOOPHOLES IN POLICY AND RELIGION AND IT’S JUST ENFORCEMENT OF LAW.

Seriously, Fuck You.

I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling ready to shut down entirely. I’m sensing that depressive fog start to take shape and hover over my body and when that happens in full, there is no hope, no fun, just a vast sense of nothingness. I’m clinging to my job like there’s no tomorrow because at least through my work, I get to help, I get to connect students to their community, and I get to see first hand how knowledge can change lives.

If you’re a parent, I hope that you stop to think about if you had been born a different race, a different SES, in a different country with a different language, how separating your child from you could damage everything and everyone. I hope just as a human being you can and want to put yourselves fully in someone else’s shoes to understand their struggles and challenges. The ability to do that is called empathy, and the world could use much more of it.

We have survived as a human species this long because of our ability and desire to co-exist. Our earth is absolutely not going to be around forever because we’ve clearly already destroyed that. I hate to think our collective recognition and appreciation of our shared humanity is also on its way to extinction. Some of my colleagues, friends, and loved ones are rightly horrified about the state of current events and want to do something, anything to help. But my main concern is that not everyone is as deeply enraged as they should be.

I thought we were all better than this.

♥, VB

April/May Fun Brings on the Rain

I love this time of year. It’s when classes end and I get a break! Don’t get me wrong, I love my students, and the overwhelming amount of enjoyable interactions far outweigh the tiny few negative ones. There are just those that get to you deep down, and thank god classes are done for a bit for me!

I still work full time in the summer, and though it’s a break from teaching, it’s not a break at all. We’ve hired 2 new staff members, 1 of which I will be supervising full time. So we have to onboard and create brand new policies and procedures for these new positions, so it’ll take a lot of time for those conversations and planning to happen. I also have to still do outreach and programming for campus, so in reality, it never really ends.

But that’s ok because I love what I do. And I can’t complain about that.

This has been a pretty eventful semester (not that most semesters haven’t been) but the biggest news is that I will be attending the USF Doctorate of Public Health (DrPH) program starting this fall. It was a big decision and it was one I had wrestled with for a while. I always knew I wanted to continue my education but was so burned out after my Master’s program that I put any ideas of attending school out of my head for a long time. I’ve never been interested in getting a PhD because I don’t want to do research nor have a job that is tied to my amount of research.

What’s great about a DrPH is that 1) I can continue to work full time (which in most PhD programs you have to quit or go part-time) because the point is to apply what I’m learning in real time; 2) it’s like the other side of the PhD. They do the research and we apply that research in real life and make sure it’s being implemented and evaluated and being advocated for in leadership positions; 3) I get to further my career with an advanced degree that fits perfectly with what I want to be doing.

Another bonus is that my job will pay for it, so the cost for me will be completely minimal. Who could turn that down??

Oh man, I’m freaking out a little bit though because life around here is going to change big time. I remember how studious and non-procrastinating I was in graduate school and that was the main thing that kept me from losing my mind. But I only had 2 part time jobs at the time and very minimal responsibilities. It’s completely different now with a house, dog, husband, and full time job. So word to the wise people: if you haven’t visited us yet, do it this summer before the offer expires in September and I lose all ability to properly host someone.

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April

Other than my upcoming academic career, life around here has been excellent. We had our porch rescreened in April and have really enjoyed being able to use both the upstairs and downstairs porch without fear of being eaten alive by mosquitoes (even though, let’s face it, it will happen to me a million times this summer, without fail). My parents gave us their old hammock, and we’ve put it downstairs and it’s a dream. Privacy, fountain sounds, crickets chirping at night…well, if I haven’t made it clear in the past, WE LIVE IN A VACATION.

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We also had Timmy’s mom and stepfather visit us for the first time in our new house and we showed them a good time the only way we know how: by drinking, eating well, and going to the beach! It was their 5th wedding anniversary and so we treated them to dinner and dessert at Bern’s steak house, which is a historic institution in South Tampa. They hadn’t been properly warned by Timmy of the kind of experience it would be nor how long it would take (3 hours on average, which goes to say, this is not your average, run of the mill dining experience). We laughed so hard that night, it was really a delightful evening. We finished the weekend with absolutely perfect weather, bocce ball on the sand, and lots more laughs and time by the water.

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May

May is a big birthday month around here, what with 2 of my nieces, my sister in law, my father, 7 friends, and myself all enjoying another trip around the sun. It’s been a little lonelier celebrating birthdays here than it was in Atlanta, but this year, that didn’t stop me. Timmy had to work a conference in Orlando the weekend of my birthday, so what’s the next best thing to going to Disney with him?

GOING TO DISNEY BY MYSELF. And it was awesome.

I couldn’t decide at first if a solo Disney trip was the most incredibly confident thing I’ve ever done or the most sad and depressing. I mean, 35 is a big milestone, and yes I still get super amped about birthdays, even now. How could I not? So many people we know passed away and can’t have any more life celebrations. I feel it’s my duty to be as thankful and celebratory as I possibly can simply because they no longer can.

My first stop was to get the ever-so-popular birthday button in Epcot, which was way less exciting than I thought it would be. I asked one person and they said to go to the blue kiosk which had no one manning it. I had to stop another employee and ask if I could get a button from the kiosk and he just kinda tossed me one. I then had to ask for a marker, and he had to find someone else to get me one. Very anti-climactic.

But dagnabnit, I rocked that thing out pretty much all weekend.

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I ended the day with a drink with my former NYU-er Kelly who works at Disney and then headed back to the hotel. Later that night, Timmy’s boss treated us to an amazing meal at Norman’s in the Ritz Carlton, which was just amazing. Great food, the bartending staff kept giving us free alcohol (which also included mezcal which I DO NOT RECOMMEND)…such a good night.

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The next day, Timmy still had to work so I went back to Disney with our friend Jessie and her son Aidan, who live in Sarasota. We had such a fun time in Hollywood Studios. Honestly, WHOEVER DOESN’T HAVE FUN AT DISNEY DOESN’T HAVE A SOUL. We finished out the weekend at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure because we are theme-park-going whores.

The following weekend my father turned 70 so you’d better believe we got our asses back to Atlanta (or rather Athens) to surprise him on such a momentous occasion. Thursday night, Timmy got us a room at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta and while I’d been there for DragonCon, I’d never stayed. He got us upgraded to a suite on the 46th floor and the views, well, they were just incredible.

We held the party that Friday night at my sister and brother-in-law’s new house in Athens (which is STUNNING btw), and since my father didn’t know that Timmy and I were in town at all for his birthday, it was a 2-for-1 surprise! My sister got the catering, I got the decorations, and we lay in wait for him. Perfect weather, family, and good food…another awesome night in the books.

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This past weekend, my sister did her annual mother-daughter trip to come visit us, this time with Anna! We planned to go to Universal again, and despite the non-stop rain all weekend, we did actually get beach/pool/sun time in on Friday. The rains came but that didn’t stop us from hitting most of the rides at both Universal parks (which was new not only for Anna but most of it for Carla too) and then did some outlet shopping. I was impressed by how much we got in, and especially considering that the rain isn’t going to stop until sometime next week, I’m super glad we did what we could before Timmy and I basically become shut-ins.

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So now it’s Memorial Day weekend, and we don’t have anyone visiting (thankfully because hello rain) nor anything planned. It’s been a pretty active two months, so maybe we should actually just rest for once.

Probably not though if we’re being honest.

Enjoy your weekend and thank you to all who have served this country of ours.

♥, VB