About Me · California · Family · USA · Utah

We did a 12 hour road trip with our cats

“What are you doing about your cats?!” said about 100 people upon learning of our move.

Obviously we took them. We bought a little kitty tent on Amazon a few weeks ago and made a nice kitty fort in my back seat for them to snuggle up in during the drive from Orange County to Salt Lake City. While the tent was in our house, they loved it.

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Obviously our plan didn’t work out in the car. Our cats DO NOT LIKE to be locked up. They cried and scratched incessantly. Hazel broke the zipper of the kitty tent and escaped in less than 20 minutes, although not unscathed. She was so desperate to get out that she tore up her nose on the zipper. Once out of her kitty prison, she howled and roamed all over the car, driving Erwann crazy, as he was trying to keep her from going under my brake and gas pedals.

Poppy was mostly chill from the start, but would also cry occasionally. Erwann had to pin Hazel on his lap the entire drive from Costa Mesa to Las Vegas. She would sometimes be calm, but every time she looked out the window she would start to howl again. She dozed off just in time for our first stop.

Along with the tent, we had also bought some kitty harnesses and leashes. I had tried to get them used to the harnesses to no great avail. However, crunch time had arrived. We stopped for gas just outside of Vegas in 108 F. I put the kitties in their harnesses and on their leashes to be able to give them some water and just get out of the car for a minute. They were not pleased.

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Erwann and I were not pleased either, because we let Poppy out of the tent to discover that she had peed all over. We decided to ditch the tent all together and make them a little bed in the back. We blocked the seats so they couldn’t go underneath and gave them free roam. This worked much better. They settled in pretty quickly and spent most of the final hours sleeping on our laps.

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We made one more stop in Fillmore with the leashes and harnesses. The girls still weren’t loving it, but it wasn’t as hot as Vegas, so it went more smoothly.

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We rolled into Salt Lake around 7:30 pm, set up the kitties with their food, water, and litter box, and cleaned the cat pee out of the car as best we could. They are still on the traumatized spectrum almost a week later, but they’ll be fine. They have been drinking a lot of water because they refused to do so during the voyage and seem happy to have plenty of beds to hide under.

Poor kitties. We sure love them though, so I’d say they’re also very lucky.

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Georgia · Kentucky · Ohio · USA · Wedding

#DrunkonDavis in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia

Thanks to this strong and beautiful woman, I got to spend an amazing weekend celebrating the end of her single life and getting #DrunkonDavis in Saint Simon’s Island, Georgia.

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I started the weekend in Cincinnati, which was surprisingly charming. I say surprisingly only because you don’t hear much about Cincinnati tourism. It had a wonderful vibe, though. From Cincy we went to Lexington, Kentucky to spend the night and to kiss my kitty nephews.

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The next stop was Georgia for some beaching!

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Pictured above are only some of her bridesmaids. Arin is one loved bride!

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It was hot and the water was the perfect temperature, so we spent a lot of time in the ocean. It was the first real experience of humidity for this desert girl, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! My skin and hair felt amazing, and it made the breeze feel warm and pleasant.

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Another plus was the sweet hook up we got with one of the bridesmaid’s family who own a condo five minutes from the beach. She planned pretty much the whole thing and got these cute shirts made for us.

We did a lot of relaxing, but being a bachelorette party, we also partied.

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SSI was a perfect place for a girl’s weekend. It was only a little bit touristy with nice beaches and nice people.

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…And at least one cute door.

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About Me · California · USA

What I Learned in Grad School

My mom’s new favorite thing to make me repeat is, “It was worth it.” She seems to think that at some point in 2014 I said that a master’s degree wouldn’t be worth it. I’m pretty sure that never happened, so of course I’m happy to admit that, yes, it was worth it. I learned a lot, and it feels awesome to put “Master of Science in Education with concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” on my resume.

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Here’s some stuff I learned during this valuable process.

  1. Being a grad student doesn’t make you special. It makes you the system’s bitch for at least two years.  I’m also discovering that it doesn’t automatically prepare you to enter the workforce. Image result for funny grad school meme
  2. It’s much harder than a bachelor’s degree. MUCH HARDER. The study and learning methods I used during my undergraduate were not useful to me in grad school.  Image result for funny grad school meme
  3. It’s much less fun than ~college.~ No time for parties. No money for parties. No energy to make new friends.Image result for funny grad school memeImage result for funny grad school meme
  4. It takes a f****** toll on your mental health. I later found out I wasn’t alone in that. It’s not about avoiding it. It’s about endurance. Image result for funny grad school meme
  5. How to put theory into practice. I’m not sure how or when I learned that, but I did, and it’s actually cool. I see theory in my practice everyday. I find myself explaining things that seem like common sense. They’re not common sense. Apparently I absorbed something. Image result for happy surprised gif7. How to take better criticism. I’m a sensitive person. This is still tough for me, but I’ve improved and am generally more open to feedback. Image result for hurt feelings gif

My darling family drove 12 hours from Utah to attend the official ceremony today. Now we’re packing, packing, packing, and moving on Wednesday.

On to the next chapter.

California · USA · Utah

Goodbye, California

It’s official. Our bosses know. We had a goodbye party. We are leaving California. We are moving to Utah in three weeks.

Why?

I miss my mommy, duh. No but really, I just miss my family way too much. It’s become too difficult to be out here without either my or Erwann’s family. We don’t really plan on living in a one bedroom apartment forever and can’t imagine ever being able to afford anything bigger. We also don’t love that we have to drive two hours and fight through hosts of people every time we want to escape civilization.

Of course, there are things that we will miss.

A handful of really good people, for starters. When we’ve been far away from our families, some awesome friends have always stepped up to help us move and celebrate Christmas and birthdays. We’ve also taken lots of fun trips to places we’ll probably never see again. And, I know we will miss California this winter when we’re scraping the ice off our cars.

Do we have jobs?

No.

Aren’t we scared?

A little? Not too much, though. We’re mostly excited. The job market in Utah is pretty good, and we have an awesome support system if it takes some time to get settled.

Where will we live?

With my grandma and grandpa until we find jobs.

When are we moving?

“Unofficially” on May 24th, we will pack up everything we haven’t sold and drive up to Utah with our kitties. But, the “official” moving date is really later in August, because we’re spending the summer with Erwann’s family and doing this:

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Stay tuned…

California · USA

Birthday in Joshua Tree

I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday this year. We are pretty spoiled in Southern California with mild winters, but they are not so mild that we can camp in December or January, so when my birthday began to approach we started planning a trip into California’s best desert:

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The 14th fell on a Friday this year, so Erwann and I took the day off work to try to beat the weekend traffic. Not remarkably, we were not (nor are we ever) the only ones to have this idea. Between Easter and the weekend, the park was packed.

We stayed at Hidden Valley Campground last year and loved it, so we tried there first. No luck. The next closest was Ryan Campground, which was also beautiful. No luck. The next was Jumbo Rocks Campground, the park’s biggest. We wanted to avoid Jumbo Rocks for this reason, because it’s where the LA party people tend to go first, and the last thing I want when I go camping is to be around other drunk people. Everyone knows that the whole purpose of camping is the get drunk ALONE in nature.

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Or, it’s at least about getting drunk with a few people you actually like, which is what we did with our friends Kirt and Eleanore.

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We intended to do a bit of hiking as well, but we had the wild, beautiful, empty desert literally right behind our campsite. Although the desert is stunning in its own bizarre way, it’s not ideal for hiking. It gets real hot real quick, and it starts to look the same after a short time, so we stuck to meandering off the beaten path with all the hares. We were excited about the hares. Otherwise we stayed in the tent or under the sun reading. I finished two books during the trip.

I was also stoked on the adorable family who camped right next to us. They had three curly blond-haired, green-eyed boys of 8, 6, and 4 years old. The 8-year-old immediately offered to help us set up camp. We played soccer with the 6-year-old using the wood bundles as goal posts. The next day he told Erwann he wanted to play soccer with him again before they left. The 4-year-old showed off his glow stick and attempted to impress us by rolling around in the dirt.

To summarize: nature, bunnies, munchkins, friends, and reading. Quite a productive camping trip.

 

About Me · France · Italy · Normandy · Rome · USA · Utah · Wedding

How I Found My Tribe

A few days after my wedding, Margaret, Aaron, and I went for a long hike in the mountains by my parents’ house. We were covered in dirt and sweat, but we made it to the beautiful waterfall and were now on our way back down the mountain. Somehow we walked right passed the bridge we were supposed to cross to continue to the trail on the other side of the river. I thought I had been following the trail, but eventually realized that the “trail” was no longer such. We had been hiking all day, and the thought of backtracking up the hill to find the bridge and relocate the real trail was not a bit appealing.

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I scanned my surroundings and noticed that the trail was just on the other side of the ravine and across the water. We decided it would be faster to go down the muddy slope, cross the river, and climb up the slope on the other side. All too quickly we realized what a stupid decision this had been. It had rained recently, so we were immediately slipping and sliding down the damp slopes. But, it was too late to change our minds, so we laughed at the mud collecting all over our bodies and clothes and just kept on sliding.

At that moment I realized that these kinds of crazy, poorly thought out, and hilarious experiences are those which build the best friendships imaginable. All of the sudden, it felt like I was an international student in France again, part of me wishing I had been smarter, another part laughing hysterically, and another part petrified, all while having no other choice but to carry on. Sometimes during our year in France my American friends and I thought we had made a mistake in going there for a whole year, but all we could do was laugh and stick together until we made it to the other side. Even in the worst of times, we knew that the scary or horrible experiences would be unforgettable moments that would build lifelong friendships.

One particularly horribly unforgettable memory in France was waking up every Friday at 5:30 am to catch a train and be at work to teach English to middle school students at 8 am. Aaron, Margaret, and I all taught in a small rural city called Lisieux. Officially we were language “assistants” but in reality we were untrained English teachers. Lisieux was about a 20 minute train ride away, and we taught from 8 am until 5 pm every Friday. In order to take the train, walk to school, and begin class on time, we had to catch the 7:20 train. In Caen, the city where we were living, Thursdays were the best nights for students to go out to the bars. There were always parties on Thursday. My friends and I never went to these parties because we had to work, but they went on in our dorms without us every week. It was rare that we got enough sleep on a Thursday night due to the noise.

On top of that, we hated teaching. The students were between 12 and 16. They lived in a very small city in the countryside, so they didn’t see the use of English. They knew that we weren’t their real teachers and wanted to use the time in our classes to goof off. What’s more, we didn’t have sufficient training as “language assistants” to give engaging lessons. Dreading the following day, I always spent most Thursday nights lying in bed awake.

The only thing that made these Fridays bearable was my friends. Getting out of bed was made easier with the thought that I would spend the train ride with my friends. Although we were usually silent on the way to the train station, we would normally buy coffee and something sugary once we arrived. After perking up a bit, we would spend the time on the train bouncing ideas off of one another. None of us ever had a solid plan of what we were going to do on Friday; we all relied on each other for classroom activities.

During class, we would always send each other text messages about the happenings of our day. Aaron: “They’re fighting over the $1 prize for the game.” Alisa: “They’re rolling cigarettes.” Margaret: “They told me I have a big nose.” When the long day finally finished, we would meet up at the train station and spend the ride home venting and unwinding from the tiresome day. Aaron and I had been friends right from the start, but it took this uniquely miserable experience to bring me and Margaret together. We had always been cordial, but sharing those train rides was the building block of Margaret and my friendship.

Arin and I on the other hand, were already friends before we went to Rome, but we were bonded together after surviving a truly terrifying experience. There we overheard some American girls staying in the other room talk about whether or not their boyfriends back in the U.S. were cheating on them (they were). We saw the same old men from the restaurant at lunch on the news that same night. We giggled every time we got the opportunity to say, “Prego!”

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We left our bed and breakfast to go back to France at about 4 am. Our flight was at 7 am, and we had to catch the shuttle to the airport well in advance. It was pitch black when we left. Upon arriving in Rome, we had walked through the train station to get to our bed and breakfast. At 4 am however, the train station was still closed. We had to walk around the station to get to the other side. Arin and I felt terrifyingly exposed with our red and blonde hair. Numerous homeless men spoke to us in Italian. At one point, a car full of Italian men pulled over and signaled for us to get in their car. We held each other, praying that we wouldn’t get kidnapped and guiltily thinking about what our mother’s would say if they knew what their daughter’s had gotten themselves into.

Not wanting to cause her more grey hairs than was necessary, I didn’t tell my mom the full story about my trip to Rome until three years later. During those days leading up to my wedding, Aaron, Margaret, Arin, and I finally recounted all the silly and sometimes downright stupid things we had done while studying abroad in France. When I first met them back in 2011, Aaron was a guy from Pennsylvania, Arin was the redhead who lived on the third floor, and Margaret was the girl with the cute boots. As a normal girl from Utah, I never expected to form such a strong bond with other seemingly normal Americans. But, through surviving a year away from our country and our families, near kidnapping, and sliding down muddy mountain slopes, I found my tribe.

California · Family · USA

First Anniversary: Yosemite National Park

Erwann and I have been married for one year. August 2015 was a whirlwind; we didn’t even have a honeymoon. In September I went back to school, and Erwann went back to work. In October we “celebrated” Halloween at home with the cats, then we returned to Utah to party turkey style, and for Christmas we returned to Europe. Then the new year came, and we watched fireworks on the beach in Portugal. I have no memory of February. During my spring break, I went to the East coast. When I came home, Erwann was at work but he had surprised me with flowers, cookies, and a love note (*heart eyes emoji*). In April I turned 25 and Erwann spoiled me even more. We also had a great visit from Valerie and went camping in Joshua Tree. In May we went camping again. I had a week off of work in June and went to Utah alone to hang with the Metcalfs. In July we planned our anniversary trip. We got back last week. Did all of that happen in a year, or in a week? The latter seems more plausible.

To celebrate these 12 months of matrimony, we took a long weekend trip up the California coast towards Yosemite National Park. We were disappointed in Big Sur because the weather was yucky. Disappointment made us both grumpy, and we spent most of the first day snapping at each other. It was just in time to make us start regretting the jewelry on our ring fingers. Ha! Just kidding. A darling little gopher cheered us up. A few other people stopped and said it was so cute, but Erwann and I were the only ones happy to sit there and watch the little guy pop in and out of his hole for thirty minutes. Love at first sight (of a cute animal) sums up our relationship pretty well.

We crashed in the glamorous metropolis of Merced that night and rose early to take off for Yosemite. We were ecstatic to see blue skies the whole way, and they continued for the rest of our trip. Luck smiled upon us again, and we found a spot to camp right away. We set up the tent and left to hike the famous mist trail. It was packed with European and Asian tourists, but gorgeous nonetheless. We made friends with another cute rodent and decided that only people who can sit and watch a squirrel for 30 minutes should be allowed in national parks. We also saw a rattlesnake, which was equally as exciting although not as fun.

That night we returned to our temporary home, ate dinner and smores, and went to sleep in the coziest double sleeping bag you could ever imagine. We had planned to wake early and hike again, but at 6:00 am after a nine mile hike, I was not having it. We went back to sleep and woke up when the tent became too hot. We decided to take it a little easier and spent the day lounging by the river and swimming in the perfectly cool water. It was so dreamy. We enjoyed our final night with drinks in the wilderness behind our campsite and more dinner and smores. The next morning we sulkily packed up, saw a few more sites, and hit the road.

We were happy to see the kitties again, but man. The vacation blues hit us so hard. Spending time in a godly place like Yosemite makes you realize how dull and ugly suburbia is. This weekend we’re planning another return to the mountains for one last hurrah before my LAST SEMESTER of grad school. That’s right, folks. I’m almost a master! I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of the school, health, or work related challenges life threw at me this last year without my husband. He gives me strength. I am an extremely sensitive person, but in a way, that also makes Erwann stronger. The Hickels are a great team, and we’re ready for another year. Let’s do this!
Here’s our video from the trip: