personal

My life as a traveler

I never finished my posts recapping my trip to Nepal. That trip, save for a bout of food poisoning that hit during my 30-plus hours on flights and in airports on the way back to Texas, was incredible. Seeing Everest from a plane was incredible. Becoming friends with the people I met on that trip was incredible. But then I just felt uninspired writing about it. Like writing about it somehow took the trip away from me.

I went to Nepal in December 2015. I went to Taiwan and the Philippines (Boracay, specifically) in October 2016. Then I was in Guanajuato, Mexico, in January; Medellín, Colombia, in February; and Antigua, Guatemala, in March of this year. Thanks to my location-independent job, my trips to Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala were for the full month each – I worked full-time during those jaunts abroad.

Even with all the travel and adventures, I still had no desire to write. I journaled a little. But no blogging. My domain renewal notice came up, and I let it expire. This blog just sat. Dormant.

I’m going to Peru in September for a much-needed vacation. I’ll share photos on Instagram, as I have with my previous trips; where words have refused to flow, my photos helped me tell the stories.

Everest, Nepal. December 2015

My search history would show you my efforts to figure out if I can work abroad again sometime soon. Paris. London, maybe. Berlin? Or Frankfurt? Tel Aviv looks incredible. As does Dahab, Egypt. And I found out about this place in Tanzania…

That’s when I push my computer away and tilt my head back, eyes closed. This always happens. I start with a potential location – for vacation, to work remotely, to live – and then zoom out of the map little by little to explore more options until entire continents fill the screen and I’m overwhelmed.

The world, and the possibilities within it, is overwhelming.

I tried to quell that feeling of being overwhelmed by places to go by moving to Taiwan in August 2010. This site was born not long after; I’d started a listserv called Mandy’s Pushpins to keep friends and family updated on my life abroad. When that listserv turned out to be a pain to maintain, I bit the bullet and signed up for WordPress. I wrote regularly about my life in Taiwan, the trips I took in the two years I lived abroad, and how I handled coming back two years later on September 1, 2012.

(Spoiler alert: I didn’t handle it well.)

Then this blog became my personal space for feelings, some of which should have stayed in my journal, I’m sure. When I settled in Dallas and tried to join the dating scene there, the name of this site should’ve changed from Mandy Travels to Mandy Dates. Instead it became “Mandy travels… and stuff”.

“Stuff” is a vague word. It’s the kind of word you throw around when you’re not sure what word you actually want. And that signified where I was at the time. I wasn’t sure want I wanted. I’m still not sure what I want.

“Hey, Mandy. What are you doing with your life?”

“Oh, stuff.”

Boracay, the Philippines. November 2016

In order to better shape what I meant by “stuff”, I did what I tend to do when I get antsy: I moved. Thanksgiving of 2015 found me on the road with a U-haul full of the belongings that survived the great cull of 2015. Northern San Diego County, I decided, was where I’d figure out my life. Dating, exploring – LIFE – was going to happen. I was finally going to feel like I had my act together.

The itch started again about six months ago. It’s inescapable, powerful, and not necessarily something I’m happy about. Even my mom, as we talked on the phone Sunday evening, asked if it was coming back. I told her I wasn’t ready to leave, which is true, but that I’d started thinking about it. And, for the first time, that I was torn about moving.

This past Wednesday night I had a very “hippie California” experience, and that’s when everything seemed to become clearer.

I went to see a friend who practices Eastern Medicine. As I rested on the table, we talked about my physical aches, and with my guidance she poked, pinched, and prodded before administering acupuncture needles. My right knee and foot were a mess, which I expected. When she moved to my head without my prompting, I lay quietly. She put one in my left ear.

“What’s that one for?” I asked.

“Anxiety,” she said.

Guanajuato, Mexico. January 2017

The needling itself hurt very little. But randomly I’d really feel a needle. My eyes were closed, but I knew exactly where each needle was, especially when a particular one kind of… pulsed. My body was relaxed, but every few minutes it felt like a charge of some sort coursed through it. Not electricity – more like my body was adjusting and resetting back to how it should be. It was a wave of energy that gently passed as I lay there with a dozen tiny needles sticking out of me.

Lindsey asked how I was, and I told her what I was feeling. It was normal, she assured me. She then stepped out so I could just be. I asked if I could fall asleep, but even with her permission it didn’t happen.

Two minutes after she stepped out, I teared up. No warning, no reason, just tears in my closed eyes that eventually made their way down my cheekbones. I wasn’t sad. At the time, my mind was fairly blank. She let me be there, alone and responsibility-free, for roughly 20 minutes.

When I left, I felt good. Tired. Since I was close and the sunset looked promising, I made my way to my favorite beach, where a wooden set of stairs takes people down to a local surf spot. The tide was up, so onlookers stayed on the stairs, and there were over a dozen people in the water catching the last waves of the day.

 

The sunset was beautiful, but I was fascinated watching the surfers. They would casually launch into a wave, none of which were larger than a few feet. At the end of their run, each surfer would fall into the water.

What brought me immense joy was how they fell. It wasn’t a graceful hop or dive. Legs splayed, most of the surfers crashed into the ocean on their backs or sides in a full surrender. They’d resurface, violently shake their hair out of their faces, pull themselves back onto their boards, and paddle out to the next wave.

One let out a gleeful, surprised yell as he crashed out. From 100 yards up, I watched and laughed.

Several surfers surfing at sunset. San Diego. July 2017

I realized at that moment that I’d love to be as in-tune with the ocean as those surfers were. But I’m not a surfer. As the night went on, I realized what causes my antsy moves and my near-constant wanderlust.

Most people describe themselves with an -er. Hiker, biker, entrepreneu(e)r, surfer, mother, father, homeowner, volunteer, shopper, skier. Even the non-ers, like wife or husband, still have a way they identify themselves. And where they live needs to fit them.

I struggle with feeling like I fit in. In Dallas I wasn’t a wife or mother, a shopper, or a proud Texan. In Southern California I’m not a surfer or hiker. All I know to use to identify myself is “traveler”. I don’t have many other -ers that feel right. And when a traveler cannot travel, they get antsy. Since I want a home base in the States, that complicated things a bit, too; otherwise I’d hop place to place and be a permanent digital nomad.

There are two key steps to take now. The first is that I need to adapt better. I’m in one of the vacation capitals of the country, and I need to take advantage of that and try everything it has to offer. I might find another -er here. In fact, it’s highly likely I will. But that takes more effort than I’m currently putting forth.

The second step is to be able to afford to travel. That means making hard decisions and committing to some major lifestyle changes. At least, I think it does.

Flying over Los Angeles

As far as this blog goes, I’m not ready to delete it. I considered it multiple times over the last year, but I don’t feel done with it. For a while I thought I wanted to become a travel blogger, and I was going to use this as my launching point. I even contacted Intrepid Travel, the company I used for my trip to Nepal, and let them know I was blogging about my trip. I’m now connected to a couple people from Intrepid on Twitter, but nothing else came of it.

It’s taken time, but I realized I don’t really want to be a travel blogger. Nomadic Matt does a fine job, but a lot of travel blogs are just content for the sake of content (and popularity) (and free, touristy trips). If I see one more faked photo or fluff piece about a place, I will do nothing of consequence, but I’ll be annoyed.

Really, the travel blog “industry” shouldn’t bother me. I think the frustration comes from thinking for years that it was my dream job. When a long-term dream fizzles out, you start to wonder if you’ll ever figure out what you want to do.

I still want to tell stories. Hopefully my stories help someone somehow. I don’t know. But I need to figure out a new name for this site, because “Mandy travels” isn’t my entire life, and “Mandy travels… and stuff” is such lazy copywriting.

I’ll figure it out.

(Now it’s “No time for regrets”. We’ll see if that stays. I kind of miss “Mandy travels” already. The tagline, “Figuring out life by running directly at it”, stays.)

For now, it feels good to have written again. I wasn’t sure I could still do it, to be honest. Cory Richards, a photographer who has worked extensively with National Geographic, puts it well.

I can go months without touching my camera. Most of what I make is garbage. I’m relentlessly hard on myself for not shooting more. I’m often paralyzed by the fear that if I make something, it will suck. I can sit for months in despair without ever making a single image. I’ve struggled the last two years with photography… but occasionally it rises new again in a moment of surrender and I remember why I love this so much. I don’t have to be prolific to be passionate. But I do have to show up.

I need to show up. Find my -ers, find out how I can travel more, find ways to tell more stories, and find the time to write. It’s up to me to make it happen.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let’s talk for a second about what I fear.

I fear I’ll always live paycheck to paycheck and will always feel tethered to my debt.

I fear I’ll be single forever. Just the other day my crush walked past me, and I stared so hard at the ceiling I almost levitated. For as extroverted as I can act, I’m shy around men I don’t know. People who are single have to take responsibility for their part in their singledom, and that’s a large part of mine. See man, hide face! He looked at me – gah! Abort, abort, abort!

I fear I’ll die with regrets. My passport will be too empty and my experiences exploring my own country will be too few. I won’t ever feel true fulfillment with my career. That if I do have a book inside of me, I’ll never write it. That I didn’t tell that one person that one thing because I was worried what they’d think of me.

I fear people (will) pity me for being single. “Such a great girl, but never found love. It’s just so sad.”

Okay. There’s the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure I have more fears, but I can’t think of them all right now. We all have plenty of them; any self-respecting overthinker has more than her fair share.

In the short-term, I’m scared of my move to San Diego. Of the trip I just booked. (Which, I’ll be honest, I’m 50/50 scared and excited every time I book a trip. Doesn’t matter where or how long or with whom.) Of my triathlon next month. Of being so active but uninsured.

So let’s get something straight: I have just as many fears as everyone else. Possibly more. I freak out. I’ve had anxiety attacks. Ever had one of those? Mine started when I was trying to figure out my move from Taiwan back to the States, but I had the most severe one of my life after my former boss fired me over the phone earlier this year. They pop up every now and again.

I hear all the time about how brave I am. People are proud of me for having the courage to do something. I inspire them to take risks in their own lives. And when they are actually inspired, and actually follow through on their big scary goals because they saw me do it, that’s awesome.

Most of the time, though, when someone calls me brave, I feel like a giant fraud. I feel like I’ve been put up on some kind of weird pedestal I don’t deserve.

There’s nothing special about me, my friends. I’m scared, too.

But my biggest fear of all is letting fear run my life. Fear can become an idol, a controlling god, and if you give it power and allow it to control you, it will take over. It will consume you. It will disable you. It will throw you into a depression and make you feel you’ve lost control over your own life.

Most people aren’t completely paralyzed by this demon of self-imposed weakness. That’s good.

What’s not good is how fear keeps people from doing what they know, in the depths of their soul, they need to do. Moving. Being comfortable in their singlehood. Finding a new job. Saying yes. Saying no. Saying stop it. Telling someone how they really feel. Going to therapy. Making that big decision that will change everything. All kinds of -ings.

I’m not belittling anyone facing any of that. Because I’m standing right beside you. You’ve got your fears, I’ve got mine. Let’s hold hands and figure this out.

I manage my fears in a number of ways. My faith helps, especially because I believe God has a sense of humor; I realize I’ll look back on my current fears and laugh at myself. My family and friends help, to, especially because they’ll let me act out my little monologue of despair and then, once I’ve gotten it out of my system, talk me off the stage.

What helps most, especially in long-term management of my fear, is realizing I’ve made whatever it is out to be much larger, much more life-altering, and far more impactful than how it will truly be. Sometimes fear is warranted, but most of the time it’s just self-doubt.

I am not brave. Bravery requires staring down death and acting despite it. I’ve never done that.

I’m just a realist. That fear about living paycheck to paycheck and always having debt – it’s probably true, but I’m not suffering for it. My debt was incurred by traveling or by doing things that bring me joy. My debt, though it seems I’ll be paying it down perpetually, has given me a better quality of life. I’m not drowning. I have control. So… yeah.

That bit about being afraid of being single, and of being a total failure at flirting: I’m doing fine as a single woman. I know what I want in a man, so I’m pushing to be that kind of woman, and the more I become that woman and get to know people in those circles, the happier I am. And for as long as I’m single, I’ll be selfish and do what I want. I’ll move to San Diego. I’ll take trips to places most people don’t want to go. I’ll focus on my career, my friends, my hobbies, my physique.

Do I get lonely? Don’t be an idiot. Of course I do. But the times I’m lonely are generally the times I’ve allowed myself to wallow. I was wallowing earlier this week, so I called my mom, had her help me give myself permission to spend money on a trip, and then booked a trip to Nepal that night.

As for the whole flirting thing, I’m just really hoping that someday I actually levitate.

The final two fears I have, of having regrets and of people pitying me, I take care of by trying to say Yes as often as possible. How else was I talked into doing triathlons, half marathons, moving abroad, eating chicken feet, trying speed dating, doing Whole30, taking last-minute trips, and getting tattoos? Either someone else asked me to, and I said yes, or my crazy brain came up with some harebrained idea and I decided to make it work.

All that keeps me busy enough that most people, at least to my face, don’t pity me for being alone. I think it’s because they realize I’m not alone. I’m just single.

So there’s my long-winded secret. I have just as many fears as the next person. I’m not brave, and that’s a rumor that needs to go away because it’s unfair to actual brave people. I just manage my fears.

After all, really and truly: What’s the worst that could happen?

Taiwan photos: the most important one.

March 28, 2012. It’s the middle of the week, Wednesday, and I’m going for a jog. I pull on my clothes, lace up my shoes, put my iPhone in my armband and my earbuds in my ears. As I stretch, I decide I want to go a full 5k, so I need to exit our winding little neighborhood and hit the main road, ZhuGuang. If I jog straight down to the hospital and back, I’ll hit roughly three miles. There are plenty of side roads, too, if I get bored going down the wide boulevard.

I normally don’t get too bored, though. Jogging down the boulevard gives me plenty of things to see and watch as I go, even in Hsinchu, even at night. The side lanes, sheltered from the main traffic by narrow plots of grass, will keep me safe from crazy drivers.

Earbuds in, I open our big front door and step into the night. Taiwan’s pollution isn’t great for a person’s health, but neither is obesity. Off I go.

I slowly jog to the end of the lane, wait at the light, then cross YanPing Lu to the mouth of ZhuGuang. Tonight I’ll go along the left side, the side where you can see the rice paddy stretching out a few blocks west.

A quarter of a mile into my jog and I pass the junkyard by the rice paddy. A few people are standing outside talking, and they smile and stare as the foreigner jogs past.

As I cross their path, a small black puppy bounds past them and toward me. It couldn’t be more than a couple of months old. I try to ignore it to encourage it to return to the people, but it follows me. I stop, turn around, and pantomime to the people that their puppy is following me. They look confused. It’s not theirs.

Oh, no, I think.

I continue my jog, praying the puppy stops following me and returns to her family. Every time I turn around, she’s gleefully behind me, looking at me, wanting attention. Panicking, I turn around, hoping that going past the junkyard again will make her go back to her dog family. I speed up. I try to lose her.

I can’t adopt her. My mind is racing, and my heart is breaking.

If she gets hit by a car following me, what will I do? What if she gets lost and can’t find her way? What if, what if, what if?

Back on our street, I briefly turn and don’t see her. I’m relieved.

A bit further down, I instinctively turn around again to check for traffic. There she is, happily trotting behind me.

My heart is in my stomach. I reach the house and sit on my parked scooter outside our walled-in front entry. She sits behind me on the concrete. By this time I’m crying, begging her to leave. I can’t take her. All I want to do is sit cross-legged on the dirty ground and love on her, but I can’t.

I can’t won’t stop screaming through my head. It’s debilitating, and I’m frozen, unable to decide what to do.

Finally, ten minutes later, I stand up, open the gate, let myself in, and lock her out. She immediately starts crying. I escape inside the house, lean against the door, and cry, too.

Up the three flights of stairs to my room, and I can still hear her. I’m freaking out, and reconsidering my actions. Maybe I can take her. Can I? Can I?

She stops crying, and I climb the stairs to the roof. Silently, I creep to the edge and look down to find her. The neighbor is petting her.

Okay, I think. She’s safe. She’s okay. I’m reassuring myself, albeit poorly.

The next morning, I can’t stop thinking about the puppy. After work I walk the neighborhood, trying to find her. I want to make sure she’s okay. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I find her, but the longer I look without any sign of her, the more heartbroken I am.

She’s nowhere to be found. Where did she go? Is she okay?

Then, some days later, I’m on the roof again, reflecting. Across the street, in our neighbor’s tiny front porch, I see something. The puppy.

I call down to her, and she sits, just as she did behind my scooter. She sits, staring up at me, her tail wagging furiously. She’s happy to see me.

That was over two years ago.

Before I left Taiwan in August 2012, I frequently looked down at the puppy, now taking up residence on my neighbor’s patio. I desperately wanted to go over and love on her, but I never did. As far as I could tell, she spent all her time on that patio. She didn’t go inside, or for walks. She was just… there.

In April 2014, I went back to Taiwan to visit. We stayed in my old room in my old house. I went to the roof, looked down, and there she was. She was bigger. She noticed me and held my gaze. I felt like she recognized me, but was no longer happy to see me.

I’ve been in animal rescue since early 2011. We like to say that an animal will choose you, that you know when you meet the right dog. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a special connection between human and animal when an animal immediately, explicitly trusts you. Loves you. Chooses you.

The puppy chose me.

I abandoned her.

Before we left Taiwan this past April, I went to the roof with my camera and took a picture of her. As she lay there, I composed the shot. My heart was numb.

She lifted her head to look at me. I held my breath. She put her head back down, bored. I no longer mattered to her.

This is the picture of the puppy, now between two and three years old. This is likely the last time I’ll ever see her, as my former roommates moved out of the house this past June.

I have a hard time looking at this picture. It breaks my heart. I regret that night, and I wish it had never happened.

I keep it to remind me not to let it happen again. If another dog ever chooses me, I can’t say no.

the baby

My strange anniversary

One year ago, on June 20, 2013, my best friend Mel asked me to go to dinner. I was living in her spare bedroom, and she and her husband were taking care of me while I tried to find a job that paid better.

We went to a small Thai restaurant. She sat across from me, a worried look in her eyes, and finally, when I wouldn’t broach the subject, she let out a heavy sigh.

“Mandy, what are you doing?”

That was the night my best friend, in all her love, forced me to face my anxiety. My depression, which I was trying to ignore. My absolute question mark in terms of what to do with my life.

My heart was too heavy for my chest, and my face and eyes went blank because the surge of emotion overwhelmed my entire being. I felt that way for weeks. Months. I’d returned to the States from Taiwan in late August 2012, and as of June 2013, I was in a dark, anxiety-ridden place.

A week after Mel and I had dinner, on June 28, 2013, at 9:00am, I was in Nancy’s office. I sat on her couch and talked over my allotted hour. She didn’t quiet me until 10:30. I had a “perceived lostness” and needed to find my “anchor point”. On a half-sheet of paper titled “Transitional States” was a list of four tips to support oneself during a transitional time. I underlined “nebulous lack of clarity”.

On Tuesday, I have my monthly appointment with Nancy. She and I used to meet once every other week, but now I check in every five weeks or so. Every once and a while I consider stopping therapy, but I’m still going. Just last month she had to remind me that my life in Dallas is a transitional time. She’s helpful, my therapist.

Things turned around slowly, but surely, over the past year. They’re still on the upswing. I was even up for a job at Tesla Motors this past month, though I got cut before the final interview. That’s a crazy story for another post, though.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to volunteer with Mercy Ships. Maybe I’ll make tons of money and finally be able to pay Mel and Mikey $8,000 in back rent. We’ll see. If this year goes anything like the past year, June 22, 2015 is going to be even better than today.

Dear 2015 Me

Dear January 3, 2015 Me,

You turn 33 this year. That’s weird to say, since I’m only 31 now, but I am talking to one-year-in-the-future me, after all.

This is weird. I don’t know if I should tell you what I hope life is like in a year, or if I should remind you what it’s like right now. Maybe I’ll do both.

I’m in the midst of a challenge Jeff Goins is putting on – 500 words, every day, for the entire month of January. It’s only January 3, and I’m wondering how I’m going to manage throwing together a grand total of, at the minimum, 15,500 words. I had to use Google to find a prompt today. I took, “When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?” from The Daily Post on WordPress and morphed it into today’s topic.

Yeah. Before editing, as of right now I’m at 135 words. Here we go.

Friday, January 3, 2014: you’re fat. I’m fat. I weigh, at my last weigh-in, 234.4 pounds. I have a belly – I’ve never had a belly before. I feel it in my ankles, in my back, in my lungs. My face looks like the Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters – wide, fleshy, and white. My underarms are constantly eating my shirts and staining them because I sweat a lot.

I keep saying “you” instead of “I”. I’m correcting them for clarity’s sake. This letter is awkward to write. I hope I like it in a year.

My current celebrity crush is Zachary Levi – whom I saw last month in First Date on Broadway when I visited Caitlin. Maybe Alex O’Loughlin, too, but that could be because I’m watching Hawaii 5-0 right now. I watched a marathon of The Game a couple weeks ago and had a short-lived crush on Jay Ellis. Then I read that he preferred women in stilettos.

Nope. Moving on.

I’m sitting in my apartment, on my bed. I moved in here on October 11. That weekend was rough. Maybe you remember that, maybe not. Two weekends later Mad got married. October was a stressful month, to say the least. I’m still trying to dig my way out of the little bit of credit card debt I accrued, which sucks, because I had no credit card debt for a while. Life has calmed down a lot, finally, and right now it feels good to have less on my plate; I’m sure I’ll be bored again soon, though.

I was in a “relationship”. Oh, yeah – that one. Thankfully, I officially moved on in June of 2013. It was a beautiful epiphany: I was sitting at a red light after work, talking to a guy on the phone, and realized I was flirting. The pang of guilt I usually felt when entertaining thoughts of dating someone other than X never materialized. I was over him. I was free. I was relieved.

X never read this blog. You’ve stopped being bitter about the nevers, right? I know I need to let go of the frustration, but I’m having trouble. Please tell me I’m not harping on the nevers anymore. It’s so not worth it.

I’m hoping to start dating again soon. Thanks to my weight socking my self-confidence in the gut, I shouldn’t get involved just yet. BUT. Within a year, I hope my love life isn’t a joke. Please say it’s not. It’s kind of pathetic. Laughably bad.

Maybe I’ll finally be dating some hot CrossFitter. Hel-LO.

(You’d better be in CrossFit. You’d better not be this fat.)

I want to go to Taiwan to visit. And Hawaii to see Marianne. I have to stop thinking about travel because every time I start thinking of all the places I want to go, it makes me panic that I’ll never be able to. Has that feeling gone away yet? Am I traveling more? That hot CrossFitting boyfriend you have better love travel.

In a year, especially now that I have a really good idea of which direction I want my career to go, I’d better be making more money. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore.

Do I still live in Dallas? I’m torn right now. It’s great being so close to Mad and so many good friends, plus Mom and Dad (and Sawyer) right down the road. It sucks being surrounded by people you love, but not loving the city where you live. Are you in Colorado?

Holy cow, do you still get the, “Oh, you want to move to Colorado because they legalized pot!” question? I’m sick of it. I want to move to Colorado because mountains. Outside. Snow! Healthy lifestyle. Living in a vacation state. Nature! Cool weather!

Have you figured that out yet? The west coast or just west. Something. Maybe you met someone from Vancouver. A CrossFitter from Vancouver! If only God took requests like a DJ. I’d like living in Canada. All the jokes about how nice Canadians are make me want to live there.

I’m hoping for several big life changes in 2014. If you didn’t get them all done, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Get to it.

If I did have a very good 2014… what’s in store for 2015?

All done,
January 3, 2014 Me

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A Fort Worth wedding

On October 26, 2013, my sister got married. Planning her wedding, with all the details and countless To Do lists, was stressful, fun, frustrating (at times), expensive (though, compared to most weddings, the budget was modest), and the stuff nightmares were made of (literally, because all of us had wedding-related dreams).

Thankfully, we had help. A lot of it. Presenting, in alphabetical order, the people and places that made it all possible.

Allison Davis Photography

http://www.allisondavisphotography.com/

(For whatever reason, these pictures are not showing up in this post as crystal-clear as they should be, and that’s my computer’s fault. I can assure you that all of Allison’s photos are absolutely flawless. Just check out her blog!)

(c) Allison Davis Photography

First look.

Engagements blog post:
http://www.allisondavisphotography.com/blog/2013/04/23/maddie-steve-dallas-engagement-portraits/

Bridal portraits blog post:
http://www.allisondavisphotography.com/blog/2013/11/01/maddy-dallas-bridal-portrait-photographer/

Wedding blog post:
http://www.allisondavisphotography.com/blog/2013/11/25/maddy-steven-wedding-at-marty-leonard-chapel/

Allison Davis Photography

A shot from the piano/organ balcony inside the chapel.

There’s no question – if you’re getting married, Allison needs to be your photographer. See her Google+ page for my review. My family fell in love with her, and before the day was over, we were ready to adopt her into our clan.

shooting Mom and Mad

The great thing about this is you can see Mom and Mad mugging for Allison, and Tasha (mentioned later in this post) in the back right of the frame.

 

Bridal Boutique

http://bridalboutiquelew.reachlocal.net/

Mad found her wedding dress here, and Mom found her Mother of the Bride dress here. We fell in love with Mad’s consultant, Candice, and the boutique was great from the first round in the dressing room to final alterations.

Lewisville, Texas Bridal Boutique

Bridal Boutique - Candice

Carolyn

One of my Mom’s former room mothers and a good friend, Carolyn, took Mad’s decorations and ran with them. If you ever need an event decorated, and you’re in Texas, she’s your woman. She is selfless, generous, and can calm a first-time-Mother-of-the-Bride-to-be with ease. Just ask my mom.

Decadent Designs

http://www.etsy.com/shop/decadentdesigns

I placed a rush order with Decadent Designs for items for the bachelorette party and reception entry table. Lynsey was helpful and gracious, even when I placed the order, which usually takes 1-2 weeks plus shipping time, 9 days before the event. Of course, I managed to order one item in the wrong color, but it was all a hit.

Box and cards from Decadent Designs

bags and tags from Decadent Designs

Bags and tags from Decadent Designs, personalized wine glasses from Pickles N’ Vodka (see below).

 

Hobby Lobby

The number of times Carolyn and/or my mother were in Hobby Lobby is a bit ridiculous. It was our crafty-wedding-go-to store.

 

Jennifer Boyd Designs

http://www.etsy.com/shop/JenniferBoydDesigns
http://www.facebook.com/JenniferBoydDesigns

Jen is a great friend of mine and makes incredible wreaths. She made a custom Aggie wreath for Carolyn as a thank you for all her help.

Jennifer Boyd Designs

This wasn’t Carolyn’s wreath, but one for some mutual friends. It’s about 2 feet in diameter and at least 6 inches thick. Jen don’t joke around.

 

Kris

“Hey, Kris – I want a sign for my sister’s bachelorette in two days. Wanna help?”
“Sure!”

Within hours, I had a .psd file in my inbox. She even modified it to my specifications – here I am, asking for her help, and then getting bossy. But Kris went above and beyond. You need graphic design or multimedia design, then you need Kris.

Kris's framed sign

Marty Leonard Chapel

http://www.lenapopehome.org/marty-leonard-chapel/

The people at Marty Leonard Chapel were kind, helpful, and patient. The venue is elegant, uncluttered, intimate, and timeless. We loved it.

Marty Leonard Chapel outside

Marty Leonard Chapel inside

Melanie

Mel and I scoured Musicnotes for Mad’s ceremony music. Mel played the Forrest Gump Suite for the wedding party processional, Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” for Mad’s processional (the arrangement moves me to tears every single time), and The Wonderful World of Harry Potter for the recessional. Having a member of the family play such personal music for Mad’s wedding was moving and perfect.

Mel also catered the bachelorette party. I know. Woman’s talented.

yay Mel!

mini cupcakes

Allison Davis Photography

The piano in Marty Leonard Chapel is upstairs over the front door. Here, you can see Mel and her husband, Mikey, watching the wedding.

 

Party Time Rentals

Another go-to place for Mom and Carolyn – Party Time Rentals. They bent over backward for this wedding, and we will always be grateful for it.

 

Pickles ‘N Vodka

http://www.facebook.com/PicklesnVodka

Bri does graphic design, calligraphy, and artsy-craftsy stuff that just blows my mind. She made personalized wine glasses for Mad’s bachelorette party.

plain wineglasses made sparkly

Tasha

A family friend who recorded the wedding and created Mad and Steven’s wedding video.

recording the ceremony

Here’s Tasha in action.

(Thanks to my mom and Uncle Paul for some of these pictures.)

Love her

Tapping into my joy

Today, several months after she first told me her plans, my friend, and now former coworker, Sabrina left for her RTW (‘Round The World) trip. Italy. Slovenia. Switzerland. Thailand. Vietnam. The Philippines. Those are the countries set in stone – there’s no telling where else she’ll find herself.

Excellent photographer

I made it black and white so it could be even more flattering. You’re welcome, Sabrina.

I’m happy to see her go. She’s exactly the type who needs to travel the world and have adventures, and she’ll be an excellent ambassador for the West.

On several occasions she tried to convince me to go with her. I don’t have the money saved… but the thought catches me. Could I leave again? Instead of moving abroad, could I take the plunge and go RTW?

I don't follow her anymore.

I don’t know what I “feel wildly unqualified for”, but I do feel like I need to face my fears and do SOMETHING. But WHAT.

I’ll be meeting Sabrina in November, after my sister’s wedding, in Vietnam. My hope is to travel with her a while, then detour to Taiwan for a week, then head back. However, depending on my life at the time, I could see myself doing my own version of a shorter RTW.

I just don’t know. I thought by now, nearly a year after moving back to the States, my life would have a clear direction. I’d be dating, hoping to soon move into my own mortgage and life of roots and comfort zones.

My life is blessed and I’m happy. There’s something missing, though, and it’s deep and profound. I feel like I won’t find it until I leave Dallas. That mindset is poisonous; the grass is always greener, and Shangri La doesn’t exist. Location shouldn’t matter as much as my drive to grow as a person and make my life interesting anywhere matters.

Why am I so unsettled?

I'd fall over.

All the women have crossed legs and look ridiculous standing like that. This is the type of thing I’m most concerned about these days: marketing and advertising.

I am happiest right now when I’m active and participating in endurance events. When Julie and I ran the Wounded Warrior 10K a couple weekends ago, neither of us had trained properly, and everything was against us to succeed.

Wetness

The start line. My phone was in a Ziploc bag when I took this picture because the clouds had opened up: it was a little wet.

However, we both crossed the finish line, got our medals, and I was high on that accomplishment for a week. I was so sore I could barely walk, but my spirit was overjoyed.

I have a huge support system here, one I couldn’t be more thankful for. I enjoy my coworkers,

She's got skills

Frances was transplanting a picture of her supervisor’s face onto a picture of ferrets to make him laugh when he returned the next day. This crew takes care of each other like that.

I enjoy my job,

Ouch

In the atrium of our office building, there’s this water feature and sculpture supposedly dedicated to a man decapitated by a propeller. I find the sculpture represents the way the man died a bit too well.

I enjoy living with Mel and Mikey and their lovely family,

Mel's hand

I was slightly (very) intoxicated while celebrating Mel’s 30th at the Glass Cactus. This is the most terrifying picture of me ever, and a fantastic shot of Mel’s fingers.

I enjoy being close to my family,

insane

I bought these to wear at my sister’s rehearsal dinner. They’re as heavy as they look.

I enjoy my friends,

Love her

I was fairly emotional when I was telling her about my 10K – Rachel was the first person I texted when I finished.

and I enjoy Dallas’s convenience. My life is enjoyable.

But I’m not full of joy.

So. What to do now? Sevenly, a great organization that raises money for different causes, posted the following quote today:

We believe many of you have untapped gifts that could change the lives around you. So we felt compelled to ask what talent could you use to bless someone else?”

That quote is the direction I need to take. Now. What?

thank goodness

Mapquest

I collect maps dot WordPress dot com. Mandy travels. That’s this blog!

I haven’t written in months. Currently I’m not collecting maps, and I’m not traveling, save for the driving I do around Texas.

Scary spinning wind!

North Texas. I’m currently living under all that red. That night was a special occasion: it was the first time I’ve ever heard a tornado siren. Outwardly I kept my cool. Inwardly, I was cowardly.

It’s kind of been nine months of a pity party, if I’m being completely honest. I don’t know what to do with myself, with my career, with the next several decades I have left.

Dog friendly, not horse friendly

Texas. It’s hard to see, but that sign has a person riding a horse with a red circle-slash over it. That means No riding horses in this park. Yeehaw!

Then, one day last week, while perusing my feed on Facebook, I came across a blog with a not-for-the-fainthearted-or-children title, full of self-help without the floofy sugarcoated baby talk. She cusses. It makes me laugh.

Monday the 13th, she posted “Fill In The Blank: I’m Not a ‘Real’ ____”, and I laughed, nodded along, and got back to work. In the back of my mind, though, it sat, and I thought about it. I read it again later. I found myself wondering what my Real ____ was.

Bigness

Texas. 15,000 people can fit in this building. It’s not a community college or a sporting arena: it’s a church. Welcome to the South, where churches are larger than most towns.

Yesterday I was late to work and in a slight panic because I couldn’t find my ring. Thin, gold, unremarkable… but I bought it, and it has sentimental meaning behind it; it’s my ring. I bought it. I wear it when I want to feel like I’m in control – I can take care of myself. It’s my Me ring.

thank goodness

The room was set to be vacuumed fifteen minutes after I found it. Can you see it?

I was explaining to my coworker the significance of the ring, and I figured it out… I think. I figured out my Real ____. I’m not the Real Me. Kind of. I’m not the me I want to be. Nicole Antoinette (ALLB’s author) asks this: ““What are the top three things that I believe make someone a real ____?”

bam! take that, bag!

I read self-help blogs and, instead of seeing an expensive therapist, I go punch things.

What are my three things?

  1. The Real Me is an athlete. She regularly participates in endurance events and grins when she feels the muscles in her arms from doing perfect-form chest-to-deck pushups.
  2. The Real Me has a full passport. My current one expires January 1, 2015. I need to hit up a bunch of little countries all in a row or something.
  3. The Real Me doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck. She has a savings account, and she saves! She has money for a rainy day! She has money to hit up a bunch of little countries and fill her passport!

None of these are surprises, I know. The title of this post could be “Mandy says stuff I already know”, or “Duh”. But this is my new map: my map to me. It’ll have to do until I get back to the passport business and blog about Mandy traveling and collecting road maps, instead of psychological maps.

beep beep

You know who probably doesn’t need a map? This limo’s driver. He parks at the end of my friends’ street. I wonder what his life is like.

I’m working hard on the athletic thing. I go to boxing/therapy twice a week and try to get a jog or two in the other days. I have a 10K on June 9th –

– but wait, Mandy! I thought you were signed up for a half marathon! Well… I am. Yeah. But I’m “downgrading” to a 10K. If you’re going to judge, I’ll meet you out there June 9th and you can jog next to me and tell me all about your feelings. –

– and I want to get back into triathlons.

I have more athletic shoes than heels

Post run. I’m wearing toe socks. The saleslady told me they would make me run faster. Lies. Or maybe she just said they were comfortable. I dunno.

Later this year, after my sister gets married, I’ll hopefully be taking a trip with a friend of mine. The wanderlust monster has me in its clutches. And as far as the financial stability goes… well. Buy me dinner and I’ll tell you all about it.

those things are disgusting

My dream is to put all this space to good use. An athlete would have a bike or a canoe in here. Sweaty boxing wraps and my workout bag don’t really fill it up.

In the meantime, I’m happy. Great friends have taken me in give me a bed and a place to shower. I love being within walking distance* of my sister; especially after my grandfather’s passing, my priorities have changed, and my family and close friends are more important than ever.

It’s an interesting time, and I’m struggling with being impatient. I want to know how everything’s going to turn out. Until I know, I have my map. Mandy travels – to realness and emotional stability! Huzzah!

 

*6.5 miles. Walking distance for an athlete.

Just out of reach

I’ve been in bed since 10:20pm. Between then and now I wrote a cover letter and applied for a job, then tried sleeping. It refuses to happen. According to Gmail, where I received a confirmation email from the company after I submitted my application, I finished at 11:34pm.

Seeing how it’s 1:04am now, that means I tried to sleep for an hour and a half, to no avail. I’m sleepy, my eyes warm with the urge to stay closed, but I toss and turn. Left side, right side; on my stomach with my legs in marathon-runner position; arms under the pillows, on top of, hanging off the edge of the bed.

It doesn’t come. I blame myself. Earlier, I ate and drank what I knew would keep me awake so I could work on some applications. When I decided to quit after just one, I thought I could handle the caffeine searing through my system, and I lay down, in a state I would describe as “extremely tired”.

And then my mind started its gymnastics, leaping over thoughts and tumbling through every idea.

Me: “I’m tired. Calm down.”
Brain: “THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. What was that noise? Feelings! Overthinking.”
Body: “I’m cold. This position is uncomfortable.”
Me: “Quit staring out the window. Fall asleep, please.”
Body: “I’m hot.”

This is the idiocy I’m facing right now. It’s 1:13am. Nine minutes, and all I’ve typed is absolute nonsense.

Under normal circumstances, I’d be dreading tomorrow because it would start in less than five hours, as I would be crawling into the shower and getting ready for work. In Unemploymentville, there’s a different dread. It’s the dread of waking up and having no purpose. I’ll wake up, carry my phone and laptop downstairs and, after checking various sites, face down the job applications for the day.

People who haven’t ever visited Unemploymentville are a little in the dark about what it’s actually like here. Imagine showing up for a class every day, putting forth a ton of effort, and failing the class. You spend hours on assignments, but you fail. After a while, it’s all you can do to keep going; it all feels like a waste of effort.

I’m applying to jobs for which I’m fully qualified. I study company sites and make sure they know why I want to work there. I include facts and figures and references. If I want a good job, I need to put in the effort in my application. There are 36 unique cover letters on my computer, and those don’t include several more letters written online, instead of in Word.

Trust me: I’m trying.

Being unemployed doesn’t mean I’m lazy. It doesn’t mean I’m weak, underqualified, undereducated, or unworthy. It doesn’t mean I’m not trying hard enough. I get the feeling sometimes that people who have never been unemployed think it’s a matter of not wanting it enough. I hope they never have to go through what I’m going through. It would be nice if they could “get it”, though.

I’ll be fine. It’ll happen. I took a risk in moving back to the States without a job, and I don’t regret it. That said, it’s been scarier moving back than it was to move abroad. I’m home-of-my-ownless, gratefully filling guest rooms at friends’ houses for weeks at a time. My savings from Taiwan are slowly draining.

This “time off” isn’t relaxing or fun. I’m not able to focus on myself or do much beyond think about how I’m going to make it past this month, then through November.

Unemployment is lonely. It’s rejection after rejection and hours of time alone working on job applications. First, I was the weirdo because I lived in Taiwan for two years, so my thought processes are a little different now. Now, I’m an even bigger weirdo because I’m also unemployed. Very few people understand one or the other. Fewer still understand both. It’s ostracizing.

It’s being awake at 1:35am, knowing that the only item on the docket after I finally do fall asleep, then wake up late tomorrow morning, is job applications.

1:41am.

Still wide awake. Maybe I’ll write another cover letter now.

For my consideration

These three things have been sitting on my brain.

→ ONE

 

→ TWO

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
– George Moore

→ THREE

The Curse of the Traveler

“The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love, the more things you see. It drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger, the more you experience. So you keep looking even more, but it always gets worse the more you see. This is Part A of the Curse.

Part B is relationships. The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. But the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them. Since all these people can’t travel with you, it becomes more and more difficult to cultivate long term relationships the more you travel. Yet you keep traveling, and keep meeting amazing people, so it feels fulfilling, but eventually, you miss them all, and many have all but forgotten who you are. And then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of loneliness, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more than they will want to hear them. The reason this is part of the Curse is that it gets worse the more you travel, yet travel seems to be a cure for a while.

None of this is to suggest that one should ever reduce travel. It’s just a warning to young Travelers, to expect, as part of the price, a rich life tinged with a bit of sadness and loneliness, and angst that’s like the same nostalgia everyone feels for special parts of their past, except multiplied by a thousand.”