A Little Trip to the Lone Star State

This past week I got a chance to travel for work. It’ll be last non-local travel until I’m back from maternity leave so I had to take advantage of it. I’m not often given the opportunity to travel outside the state (but when I do it’s dangerously close to my due date and I have to refuse- er!) so making the most of each trip has been key.

This time I was being sent to Fort Hood (Killeen) Texas for a career fair. In case you don’t know that’s delightfully close to Austin. To make the most of a trip to Austin you must do two things. 1. You must eat very well. 2. You must go swimming. Otherwise you may not survive. And you just don’t know what you’re doing.

Austin Eating:

Snooze-

Snooze is a relatively new “A.M.” eatery which basically means it’s a breakfast/brunch place. I thought it was delicious and adorable but my eating companions did order various types of eggs Benedict and they were all- tiny. So just don’t get that.

Black’s BBQ-

Eating BBQ was a priority for me this trip. After an afternoon of swimming we weren’t interested in driving all over the countryside. Luckily since I’ve left Austin some of the best hill country restaurants have opened up locations in town, including Black’s! We all ordered way too much food and ate until our eyes bulged. It was totally worth it. This is the BBQ way.

img_2113

Juiceland-

So many delicious smoothie and juice options in Austin! Why don’t we have this in Wilmington?

Kebabilicious-

img_2114

Sa-ten-

I worked here one afternoon and really enjoyed it. By chance, my brother-in-law was also working remotely there. I sampled his lunch and it was insanely delicious. I have to figure out how to recreate it.

Vera Cruz-

We ate from the Vera Cruz food truck at Radio during bluegrass night which was delicious but didn’t rock my world or anything. The music and beautiful outdoor area there is awesome though.

Via 313-

So glad I didn’t leave Austin without a ladies night out dinner with Via 313. I would have certainly regretted it. That is a pizza with balsamic reduction and PROSCUITTO. Get overwhelmed.

img_2124

Swimming:

McKinney Falls is a nice, although more expensive alternative, to Barton Springs. We weren’t prepared for the line or the crowds so we headed east instead of into town for this swim time. I’ve gotten a little spoiled now that my swimming life is almost entirely in the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean but this dip saved me from insanity. Texas, you are too damn hot.

Baby Love:

The best part of my trip? I experienced my very first baby shower as a mama-to-be! It was incredible. I can’t express how loved I felt.

There were peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, baby rubber ducks floating in mocktails, only ONE game and it wasn’t embarrassing in the least AND it was co-ed. Perfection.

I wish Tyler could have been there and that I could have spent more time with everyone who came. It was incredibly special.

_dsc3918_dsc4113_dsc4129

 

 

Saying Goodbye

I’ve discussed this before on here but I have always had a real issue with the word “home.” Webster defines it as the place where a person lives. When you think of it that way it’s not very complicated, but most people do not. Home is where they grew up, a place they identify with, a place they feel safe and comfortable to be themselves or a place where all their loved ones gather. It’s a feeling you get when you feel connected to a house, a city, a community or an individual.

Growing up I never felt like I belonged in Winston-Salem (or North Carolina but I’m trying again with round two!) and I won’t say that I felt like I belonged in Austin but it was close. I felt (and feel) very connected to the community I was a part of there. I  fell in love with bike riding, learned to knit, developed my interest in cooking, learned to enjoy camping and kayaking but more importantly finally became myself in Austin. Austin is where I learned confidence, community, trust and love. I learned lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn.

So saying goodbye to Austin was very bittersweet. I’m so glad to be setting out on this adventure with my partner in all things. I can’t wait to reap the benefits of being close to my family- no more once a year visits! But leaving the place where I came into myself is not without heartache. There are many that I left behind who can never be replaced.

Thank goodness for visits! Austin, I hope to see you again soon!

IMG_1760

Reflection

As my time in Austin starts to wind down and I reach my four year anniversary here, it’s hard not to reflect on how I got here. At 28 I am recently married, in a career path that I’m very excited about, about to move back to my home state (something I really didn’t think would happen).

I googled North Carolina Love and this awesome print from etsy just popped up.

I googled North Carolina Love and this awesome print from etsy just popped up.

A little over four years ago, right before I moved to Austin, I was living in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone at a lodge. I was doing the seasonal work thing and while I loved all the hiking and nature of where I was and the friends I’d made, I was at a particularly low point in my life. I was behaving in ways that really disappointed me and feeling pretty low and confused. It seemed to me that I’d been feeling this way for quite a while and was sick of it. While in Wyoming an old friend came through the state twice while on tour with Leo Rondeau (check him out!) and told me about how much I would like Austin. He invited me to come visit when I drove through Texas to visit family on the way back to North Carolina.

The decision to move here was made almost as soon as I got here. Everyone seemed to be from somewhere else which made me feel like less of an outsider. Each person I met was friendly and welcoming. Everyone wanted to dance. Done and done!

dancin

I was miserable for the first month of living here. My friend was on tour when I first moved here and I only knew one other person. It took me almost two months to find a job waiting tables. New Year’s Eve was the first time things really started to turn around. I went to a party with my roommate and his friends. The party seemed to be full of people who didn’t really know each other and it was easy to talk to everyone. That night my first real friend in Austin, Natalie, and I agreed to go out soon for a meal. It was also the first night that my one-day-hubby and I kissed (not at midnight though- I cheers-ed a bunch of total strangers at midnight).

Once I started hanging out with Natalie I started making friends. I also moved into a house via Craigslist and met some great people. Over time a friend group grew. I’ve been lucky enough to have several great groups of friends throughout my life but this is probably the first time that I felt comfortable from the very beginning. Perhaps because I was a little older and not going through major life growing pains, but it has been such a joy to know not just one but multiple people in Austin that I could just simply be with. It has been an unexpected and much needed gift of living here.

My first Austin roommates!

My first Austin roommates!

In Austin I also found a focus in my working life. I had been working hospitality up until this point and was waiting tables when I waited on the President, a Vice President and a Director at my current company. The President of the company handed me his business card and told me to call for an interview. The first job I had there wasn’t my favorite. It was like working at a call center, but after about eighteen months the HR Manager granted me an interview and took a chance by hiring me as the HR Coordinator. I didn’t know what I was getting into to but I’m so glad I did it. I’ve always liked customer service but direct customer contact can be grating and burn you out. Working in Human Resources my “customers” are my coworkers. They are the ones I help with their benefits or time cards. It’s satisfying to help the people around you and figuring out the world of benefits is like figuring out a constantly shifting puzzle. Every time I walk away from the puzzle someone has scrambled up the pieces I’d previously put together (I’m looking at you, Obama) but I still enjoy coming back and trying to understand what’s changed and what I need to do about it.

The biggest surprise to moving to Austin is also the reason I’m leaving it, my husband. We met almost four years ago and in a week he flies out to get started on our new adventure. Considering I had serious doubts at one point about getting married (before I met him) and North Carolina wasn’t previously on my list of places to move to, it’s shocking to find myself here. It is; however, the most pleasant surprise. I am nervous about making new friends and excited about exploring a new place. I am sad to leave my friends here and am so happy to get to see family more often. It’s just so hard to know what’s in store ahead!

But these four years in Austin I will always remember as the best changes of my life.

Home is…?

Feeling stuck is one of my great fears. No matter where I live throughout my life, I want to still feel free to adventure, explore and take on the world. In that same vein, I can’t imagine choosing one place to live for the rest of my life. I’ve never felt like I truly identified with any one location. I have been many people in my life and I have felt connected to many places but never as though that place, this place is my place. So where would I live if I could live anywhere in the world? On the road, on an endless journey. Somewhere, in a place I don’t know yet, is a place where I will call home.

joan

Places I have already called home:

lawndale

This is the house I grew up in.

asheville-photos

Beautiful Asheville, North Carolina

Melbourne-Australia-sunrise

I called Melbourne home for only a short time.

elephant head lodge

I lived on Yellowstone Highway before moving to Austin.

issn-austin

My current home

To see a few of the places I’d like to travel to, visit my Let’s Go! Pinterest page.

Is May Seriously Over?

May is my birthday month. I never knew about birthday months until I lived with a fantastic roommate, Garth, in college. He celebrated his birthday all month long. He bought himself little gifts, or let himself go out more and so on and if you commented to him on this he’d always say, “It’s my birthday month.” as if this explained everything.

This year May has truly felt like my birthday month. It started with an early birthday party (complete with keg, jello shots and a bad ass pinata that had candy, alcohol and black & milds inside). This was followed by my real birthday where I had a great lunch with some fantastic coworkers and a great night with some of my favorite Austin folks. It was a very Austin night with beers and so-so food at Opal Divine’s on West 6th, free swim at Barton Springs and drinks at Uncle Billy’s. But of course, the best part was getting to go home to North Carolina. I normally don’t make it home very often but this is the third time in less than a year that I’ve made it back. Not only that but my sister came with her family as well. It is truly amazing getting to watch my nieces grow. All of the sudden, they have true definite personalities. They are becoming distinct individuals, instead of just little kiddos. And they’re pretty adorable too.

And now, all of the sudden May is coming to a close! Mixed feelings on that one. We’re getting closer to the true horrible temperatures that are a Texas summer. I’m going to have to break down and turn on my AC. But then again, pretty soon I can start counting down to my August trip to Alaska and I’m a pretty big fan of that. 

Image

My roomies and I in college.

Image

Can you guess who these little munchkins are?