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

 

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Laughs at Theme Parks

It should come as no surprise to you that Orlando is a BITCH of a commute, namely because of the traffic from theme parks. Everywhere you look, theme park, ride, slide, fun thing! And tourists make I-4 a living hell.

Of course, that’s the only way to drive directly through Orlando on the way to St. Pete and to get to Timmy’s place, so that’s always super fun. Thankfully, in order to get my head and spirit out of the funk it was in the last month or so, we’ve been taking a few field trips.

Disney offers FL resident ticket packages regularly, but the most recent deal was just too good to pass up. 3 day-tickets that don’t have to be used consecutively for only $129/person. ARE YOU KIDDING?!?! And even better, we can add on an extra day for $20/person. Unreal.

So of course, we got those tickets, added on a day, and have spent most of our last Orlando weekends taking advantage of Disney. I tried to get us in on weekends that bookend spring breaks so that it would be busy (duh, it’s Disney) but not psycho booked with out-of-towners. And my planning so far has pretty much been spot on.

Our first day, we hit up Magic Kingdom. Thank you Fast Pass, for letting me book 3 rides online. No Thank You Fast Pass, for not showing on the website in bright flashing lights that once those 3 were done, I could find a kiosk at the park and get more fast passes. That would’ve been nice in order to avoid the 80 minute line for the Dwarf Mine Train (which was awesome btw).

Of course, I downloaded our candid photos that turned out to not be so candid because we were prepared to be dorks. Enjoy.

buzz lightyear ride space mountain splash mountainMagic Kingdom

The next day, our friend from high school was in town playing with American Authors for Universal Studios’ Mardi Gras. I had no plans to go because they were playing on a Sunday night, a time I usually spend driving 2 hours home from Orlando. Zac was too sweet and not only got us VIP passes to meet everyone after the show, but he also got us free tickets to both parks.

So hell yeah we went.

We met up with one of Timmy’s friends who lives in Sarasota, and proceeded to roam the parks. The Harry Potter section of the park is still just as amazing as it was the last time we were there, but since then, they opened the Hogwarts Express train that takes you from Islands of Adventure to the Studios park and Diagon Alley.

I may or may not have admitted to being more excited to ride the train than planning our wedding.

Diagon Alley was just unbelievable. Truly 100% crazy cool. We were also able to ride the Escape from Gringott’s ride right before the parks closed, which was hella fun. My ride home at 11:30pm? That was not hella fun, but the weekend rocked, so I can’t complain.

I warn you that my pictures include my fanny pack. I unabashedly rock my fanny pack when we hit the parks because I HATE wearing a purse. It always makes my shoulder/back sweat, and my shoulder always gets sore from the weight. I can’t stand it. So fanny packs, we’re BFFs and I have NO SHAME ABOUT IT.

Next up was Hollywood Studios, which is one of my favorites because they have LEGIT rides there. I normally have to wear a motion sickness patch because I’m old as crap, but I decided to forego it for these day trips because they give me cotton mouth like I’ve never experienced before and they make you super sleepy.

I forgot how quickly you can run through Hollywood Studios, so it’s a good thing we got there around 2p. We hit every ride there AND still made the massive show Fantasmic right before the park closed. We also got to do Tower of Terror twice, which might be one of the biggest natural highs we’ve ever had.

I had a slight sad attack when we arrived though because the large Mickey wizard hat is gone, so there were construction gates all around where the hat used to be. This area is in front of my favorite ride, The Great Movie Ride. Don’t ask me why it’s my favorite. Maybe the innocence of it? Maybe because it’s the only thing I could truly stomach as a child? I’m lame, I know.

Anyways, we both thought that the construction was also for the Great Movie Ride, which meant that it was closed. And I was so sad. Until hours later, we walked around the back and saw the line! So yay, panic over (although I did read that they’re also getting rid of this ride soon…boo).

The Tower of Terror, although it starts tummy rumblings for me whenever I think of that scary ass building, is maybe one of the most fun rides ever. I can’t stand freefalls when you can see how high you’re dropping, but there’s something about the Tower of Terror that gets me every time. You have no idea how far you’re falling, you have no idea when you’re going to fall the entire distance, and the random up-and-down drops make me laugh thinking about it, even NOW.

The two of us, giggling non-stop, after both times, god that was fun. Why would anyone want to do drugs when rides like this one exist? Adrenaline rush much?

After the natural high, we still had enough in us to hit up Downtown Disney and House of Blues with a killer blues band to boot.

[I realize that it looks like I’m wearing the exact same blue top two weekends in a row, but I can assure you it is a different top. And maybe I need to branch out on my wardrobe colors.]

Side note: As a follow up to my last post, it’s no secret that I’ve still been struggling with the marriage thing. I’ve been having massive anxiety issues, still having trouble sleeping, and it’s kind of disrupting this wonderful flow that Timmy and I have. Now I’m looking for some professional help in order to work out these mental issues. No shame in this game. If it’s a problem, time to work on it.

Animal Kingdom and Epcot, we’re coming for you.

♥, VB

Disney Cruise Memories

In December, my family and I went on our very first Disney cruise. There were laughs, there was anxiety, and there were amazing memories. Best of all, I got to see Frozen twice and Thor (part 2) in the on-board movie theatres. Since I never go to the movies anymore, that was a win for me.

We had planned this cruise over a year ago, and it seemed like FOREVER to get here, and wouldn’t you know, it was over likethat. What a bummer. But after 7 days of being on a cruise ship with lots and lots and LOTS of children, and crazily enough, not enough adults who wanted to party, Timmy and I were ready to return to our lives.

It was an easy enough 2 hour drive to Port Canaveral from Lakeland (this was pre-move). We checked in extremely fast, and got to our room, where we found this view.

Yes, this was our view the entire trip. Not bad.

Yes, this was our view the entire trip. Not bad.

Apparently, we had the most central, furthest back room on the boat. And you’d think we’d be blown out by engine noise, but that was truly not the case. We had no obstructing view, no pesky neighbors to see all our moves (they had to literally peer around the walls by climbing on the back wall), and the flag was only up when at port. It was incredible.

The rest of the cruise is what you think it would be. Lots of kids, lots of awesome food, lots of handing out of antibacterial wipes. The onboard entertainment was meh, but we’re also not 5 year olds, so that could have something to do with our lack of interest. I was able to workout consistently for the first time in over a year in a gym, which because of Lakeland, was like a Godsend. I actually managed to NOT gain weight, which is a victory for anyone on a cruise ship.

Although it wasn’t super fun for adults sans kids, Disney really outdid themselves. We were on the Fantasy, which was just unbelievable. The size, the space, the decor, from top to bottom, just brilliant. And the on-board tv cracked me up because one of the channels advertised various Disney things on a loop. One of the videos was of the Fantasy when it launched. I knew previously from FB that one of our high school friend’s family was featured in the commercial and his twin girls played a starring role. What I didn’t know was that the whole family was featured in the video on-board, so I got to see Justin, his wife, and twins about 700 times on that channel. It’s like we took the cruise with them.

The weather turned on us the last few days, so I wasn’t able to get as much sun as I would’ve liked. But it was such an incredible experience, to be able to travel with my family, see my nieces light up at all the Disney fun, and hang out with my loved ones. I would recommend it for anyone looking to have fun with their family with childcare they can trust and fun experiences for all ages.

We also did the port adventures, which were just freaking awesome. We rode with dolphins, pet baby sea turtles, drove high speed motor boats, snorkeled in the reef, and had the greatest time. Yes, I left that cruise more in debt than felt comfortable (really, when is it ever comfy) but God, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. When I say that I practically wet my pants from laughter driving that motor boat…

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from that amazing week. It turns out I didn’t have as many pix of my twin nieces as I would’ve liked because they had some sort of averse reaction to being on a Disney cruise which left them completely unable to leave their mom’s side without melting down. Sad, but hey, I wasn’t going to push it. A clingy, not crying child is preferable to a crazy, tantrum child any day.

♥, VB

Rainbows

One thing I find super interesting about living in FL (besides all the crazy news headlines…no seriously, things that happen here are beyond nutso) is the weather. It’s part of what I think creates all the crazy-nutjob people here because one second it’s hot as hell and your clothes are sticking to places that are best left aired out, but then the skies shift in one millisecond and it’s pouring down rain like a monsoon. Then, clear skies, back to your daily routine. What the heck. As though FL isn’t bad enough being just hot in general, now I have to deal with driving home in a torrential hurricane-like downpour on my horrendous commute every day. I mean, I remember being young and coming to FL for summer vacations, Disney, etc, and we inevitably had to buy the Mickey ponchos because the skies would open up in the middle of the day. No poncho and you’re stuck inside one of the Norwegian bars in Epcot indefinitely.

Now, I work 9 hour days, Mon-Thurs, and in turn I get every other Friday off. It’s only for the summer (but could turn into a permanent-ish work schedule), and it has been very nice. One day every two weeks, I don’t have to make this stupid commute. It’s just stupid in every way. But now that it’s rainy season, every evening I drive home in limited visibility, high winds, flying pieces of palm trees, and really challenged drivers. It’s really fun, let me tell you. And Lakeland gets hit every single day. I don’t understand weather patterns and meteorology, but I would have assumed that coastal cities get smacked and then the central parts of the state get the tail-end of storms. But no, that’s not how it works in reality. I see darkness ahead every damn day and let me tell you, after 9 hours, it’s not welcome.

Commutes are always made better by threatening skies, right?

Hour-long commutes are always made better by threatening skies, right?

 

But in honor of Pride month, DOMA struck down by SCOTUS, and the end of Prop8 in California, it has come to light that the storms do produce something pretty awesome: rainbows. Rainbows every single day. I hope they don’t lose their appeal since they happen now all the time. Rainbows still light me up with a child-like wonder about the world and just make me happy. Rainbows = happiness.

A rainbow here...

A rainbow here…

A rainbow there...

A rainbow there…

 

(double) rainbows everywhere!

(double) rainbows everywhere!

And sometimes that’s what this whole move to FL feels like: one big, long, rumbling thunderstorm in the middle of my life. Things haven’t been the greatest here. Things have been effing hard and challenging and really anger-inducing at times. Our relationship has been truly tested and is still being tested. But someday, we’re going to see that rainbow at the end. I mean, I don’t have to wait until “the end” to realize this move was worth it, but gah, a rainbow just makes everything feel lighter and happier, right? And a little lightness and happiness is what we all need, not just for right now, but always. It’s nice to know that although this time in our life is not one of the best, happiest, “I just love everything and you and the world and roses and puppy breath!” phases in our lives, it will be once again.

Thank you, FL rainbows, for reminding me that good exists and it’ll come back around if we just wait the darker times out.

♥, VB

P.S. No one was harmed in the capturing of these rainbows on film. I am not one of these challenged FL drivers and never will be.

I’m Sorry I’m Not Sorry

I find it funny that this blog has now become the “What did they do on the weekend” update. I hate to break it to you, but not much happens during the week, so the weekend stories are really all I got. Sure, there’s a lot of riveting driving action, to and from St. Pete, including stories of horrific traffic with no end, no accidents that caused the traffic, and the occasional 2 hour commute home that culminates with me crying out of sheer frustration for the last hour. There’s also sweaty hot yoga a few times a week that keeps me out of traffic for a nice smooth drive home, but also an arrival time around 8 PM that doesn’t leave any time for cooking or errand running.

But that’s really not something I like to relive, so we’ll skip that and move onto the fun.

Last weekend was the BESTEST. My sister, bro-in-law, and niece came to stay with us and we went to Disneyworld!! I had been looking forward to going to Disney ever since we got down here since we live about 45 minutes from it and to top it off, I got to go with my 3.5 year-old niece on her first trip ever to Disney?!! GET OUT OF HERE. It was amazeballs. They went to Magic Kingdom on Friday, did as much of the park as they could, and then we all went again on Saturday to finish it up.

so excited for Disney!

so excited for Disney!

Timmy couldn’t go because he was feeling a little under the weather, which sucked because it didn’t feel the same without him there. See, I took him to Disneyworld in 2011 as a thank you for taking care of me after I had reconstructive ankle surgery earlier that year. He had never been as a child (WTF) and so we went on a magical adventure that week. BTW, if you get the chance to go, go the week before a break, like the week before Thanksgiving like we did. There was NO ONE there, we rode all of the rides without lines, some multiple times, and there was no smothering heat like I remember as a child in the summer. It was hands-down, one of the best vacations I’ve ever ever ever been on. So to go back without him wasn’t cool.

It was definitely an interesting trip to Disney. Continue reading