Keeping Christmas Magical Into Adulthood

Keeping Christmas Magical Into Adulthood

As a child, Christmas was without a doubt the most magical time of year. You could actually feel the excitement in the air. During the holidays, everything felt special. I remember the Christmas season feeling like it lasted so long but loving every moment of it. Christmas always felt so far away, even throughout the month of December.

Fast forward to adulthood, and Christmas has a very different feel to it now. It is still one of my favorite times of year, don’t get me wrong. But there is so much more to it than before. When you’re a child you don’t realize how stressful the holidays are for adults. We spend the last months of the year running around from holiday party to family function, while also Christmas shopping and decorating our homes. It’s a lot. Its hard to stop and appreciate the holidays when there’s so many obligations and tasks to check off our list. In fact, so many of us look forward to the holiday being over!

The holidays can still be a magical time of year for adults. This year has been a rough one for a lot of us, so all the more reason to try to genuinely enjoy the holidays! Here’s a few ideas as to how you can keep the magic alive as an adult during the Christmas season:

1. Decorate your home. This seems obvious, but decorating my home always makes it feel like Christmas is officially here. Growing up, my family decorated virtually every inch of our house. My mother is extremely artistic, so our tree and Christmas decorations always looked so beautifully put together. My first Christmas out of my parent’s house, I was so excited to decorate my little apartment for the holiday. My roommate and I didn’t have much money, but we used what we got from our parents and the dollar store to bring the festive spirit home.

Over the years, my Christmas decoration collection has expanded and now that I have a home of my own. I usually start decorating the day after Thanksgiving (not any sooner, I like to enjoy Turkey Day), and typically make an evening out of it. Throw on some Christmas music or a Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas (here’s the schedule) and deck your halls!

2. Have an actual Christmas party. And yes, that means be corny AF. I love a themed party, and Christmas is the perfect time to pull out all the stops! I’m talking ugly Christmas sweaters, spiked eggnog, festive games, delicious food, you name it!

My fiancé and I threw an incredibly successful Christmas party last year for our friends. The true crowd pleaser was our take on the Naughty or Nice game. The object of the game is to find out if you were “naughty or nice” that year by choosing a plastic cup at random. Each cup has a slip of paper in it detailing why you were either naughty or nice, and a prize. We shook this game up, by making “adult versions” of the reasons for being naughty or nice and including booze! Yep! We put a mini bottle of booze in each of the “nice” cups, which was a huge hit! There are so many great Christmas party games on Pinterest, so start planning your party!

3. Have a Christmas movie marathon. One of my favorite Christmas traditions was kept silently to myself. Every year, I would turn off all the lights except for the Christmas tree, curl up under a blanket, and watch a holiday special on television. Sometimes I did this alone, sometimes my family was there, but no matter what this always got me feeling festive.

As an adult, this is still something I love to do! There is something really comforting about the glow of Christmas lights and a classic holiday movie. This little tradition means even more now because its a treat to get a quiet moment as an adult during the holiday season. This is a great thing to do if you really just want to sit back and enjoy the holiday.

4. Speaking of Christmas lights, go around your neighborhood and check out your neighbors lights! Let’s be real, people who put up extravagant Christmas light displays want you to stop and appreciate them. So do it! Does your neighborhood lack in Christmas creativity? Go to another neighborhood. I love driving around and visiting the houses that go all out each year, and discovering new houses that pulled out all the stops. This is a simple (and more importantly free) way to get into the holiday spirit.

5. Wake up and open presents. Hear me out on this one. The first Christmas I lived on my own, I woke up and thought “now what?” I was so used to waking up with my family and opening presents and having breakfast and doing the whole “Christmas morning” thing. My roommate was with her family, so I didn’t even have anyone to wish “Merry Christmas” to when I woke up! It was a very weird feeling and kind of depressing to be honest.

The following Christmas, my fiance (then boyfriend) and I lived together and I was determined to have an actual Christmas morning. We woke up early and went into our living room to open the presents we had bought for each other. Santa even brought us a few gifts! It felt more like the Christmas mornings of my childhood. Ever since, I have always made sure that our Christmas mornings were special. Do the Christmas thing. open presents, cook a delicious breakfast, watch the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade (this might be a specific tradition for Disnerds like myself but its fun, okay?), and enjoy the fact that this is a special day!

6. Give back. One of the most “adult” things I have done during the Christmas season is giving back. People always talk about giving back around Christmas, but not many actually do. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of presents and parties and forget that not everyone is fortunate enough to have the Christmas you might be having.

There are a lot of great ways to give back during this time of year. If you don’t have extra cash to donate or time to volunteer, don’t worry! There are number of things you can do to give back to your community. From baking treats for your local public service people, to donating canned food from your cupboard to local soup kitchens, no act is too small. Even just taking time out of your day to ask a stranger how their doing is enough!

Whether your holiday’s involve a lavish celebration with hundreds of your closest friends, or a quiet evening at home with just a few, I hope you find a way to make the most of this magical time of year.

Anxiety Doesn’t Discriminate

I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember. Though, I’ve only recognized and taken a proactive approach to deal with it within the past five years.

I used to think I was just shy or even “the weird kid.” I would watch my peers playing, communicating, and making friends and wondered why it wasn’t as easy for me as it appeared to be for them. Why did I have such a hard time doing normal things?

The thing was, I didn’t consider myself a shy person. In fact, I considered (and still do) myself an extrovert and close friends and family would agree. I loved being out and about; seeing and experiencing new things. I’ve always had a curious mind, appreciate healthy discussions, and learning new things. I had a lot of questions and thoughts, but I had a hard time voicing them.

My mom always tells the story of when I was about five years old and had an absolute meltdown because I colored outside the lines. Mom tried calming me down by saying, “It’s okay, Morgan. Nobody’s perfect.” I became more hysterical and responded, “but I am perfect! Grandma and Grandpa said so!”

I believe this could have been my first anxiety attack.

A few years later, I quietly locked myself in a hotel bathroom because I suddenly became overwhelmed with the uncertainty of death. My parents were watching the news or some crime show that was discussing someone who had died. I began wondering what happened to us after we died. Was it just eternal darkness? Were we aware that we were dead? Did our minds still work, but our bodies no longer did? The idea of a body being six feet underground enclosed in a casket filled me with palpable dread.

The thing was, I strongly believed in heaven. My family went to church, I believed in God. I knew death wasn’t something to be afraid of. I knew it was a natural part of life that happens to everyone at some point. But I couldn’t rationalize this with myself. I didn’t know then, but that is exactly what anxiety does. It blocks out your rational thoughts and leaves you worrying about ridiculous things beyond your control.

My mom eventually came into the bathroom to console me. I couldn’t have been much more than 10 years old. I was on vacation with my family. I was a child. I shouldn’t have anything to worry about, right?

Within the next few years, I would continue to have bouts of anxiety that I attributed to puberty. And maybe that did have a huge effect on the preexisting anxiety I felt on average. I grew up Catholic and in high school, I was confirmed. Confirmation is the process of committing yourself to your faith and declaring yourself an adult in the eyes of the church. Before confirmation, your faith is the responsibility of your parents. After confirmation, your faith is your own responsibility.

The entire process of my confirmation was a highly stressful situation. There were all kinds of classes I was required to take, papers to write, and an entire ceremony to participate in at the end. It was a huge deal for my family. There was a lot of commotion the evening before my confirmation. I was with my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) and they were all obsessing over the details of my confirmation. Was I prepared? What was I going to wear? How was I getting there? Did I know what I had to say? How many other people were going to be confirmed at the same time? The questions just wouldn’t stop.

Eventually, anxiety took over and I had a breakdown. I remember excusing myself and going to my room to sit on the floor and sob. I was overwhelmed. I was nervous. I felt extremely pressured.

Around that time I started recognizing my anxiety for what it was. After I graduated high school, I sought professional help. My anxiety had turned physical. Aside from the typical increased heart rate and inability to focus, I was getting terrible stomach aches. I would go weeks without eating full meals. I would panic at the thought of being by myself, but when I had company all I wanted was to be alone. I found it impossible to sit still, but anxiety is exhausting, so all I wanted to do was to lay down.

I began paying closer attention to the things that were triggering my anxiety. I hated feeling this way and wanted to do something about it. I quickly realized that like a lot of people, new social situations caused me a lot of anxiety. This made college extremely difficult. Just as I had begun to feel comfortable in a class, the semester was over and I was meeting an entirely new group of people in a new class. This also caused me to be terrible at making new friends. (Sorry to anyone who genuinely tried being my friend and I blew off. Anxiety makes you look like an asshole sometimes.)

Conflict of any kind also wreaks havoc on my nerves. It doesn’t even have to be a conflict that I am involved in. If I am anywhere where conflict arises, even between two strangers, it immediately triggers my “flight” reaction. Seriously, I’ll do anything to get out of there.

Anxiety doesn’t discriminate.

Anxiety doesn’t care that you’re a child that can’t understand why they are feeling this way. Anxiety doesn’t care that you have things to do. Anxiety doesn’t care that today is an important day. Anxiety doesn’t care that you have responsibilities or a job. It doesn’t care how you really feel.

Anxiety might be something that I deal with every day, but it in no way defines me. It’s not something I am ashamed of or refuse to talk about. It’s not a crutch or something that I allow to hold me back anymore. It is simply something that I am learning to deal with. I encourage anyone with anxiety to really get to know yourself. Pay attention to the things that might cause you anxiety and learn how to manage these situations.

Recently, I tried going out with my fiance and friends after my grandmother’s wake. I thought It would be nice to have a few drinks and blow off some steam after an incredibly emotional few days. We walked into the bar and it hit me like a brick wall. My heart started racing and I began scanning the room. For some reason, I felt like everyone was staring at us. We were still in our funeral clothes, so we stuck out a bit from the rest of the crowd. I began to get very self-conscious of this and was on the verge of a full-blown attack. I rushed out of the bar, and my fiance and best friend followed behind. I was able to explain to them that I just couldn’t be there, I needed to go home.

Anxiety is always something that will affect me. As good as I have gotten at recognizing when and why I am feeling anxious, I still have moments where it creeps up on me.

However, it is possible to still live the life you want. You don’t have to limit yourself or miss out on life because of anxiety. If necessary, seek professional help. The stigma around mental health is changing. Ultimately, you owe it to yourself to live the best life possible regardless of your limitations.

Why I Don’t Do Black Friday

Why I Don’t Do Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving, ya filthy animals!

On this day of giving thanks, I would like to start by thanking you all for taking time out of your holiday to read my blog. I hope your bellies are full of turkey and pie, and you didn’t have to sit through any political debates over dinner!

As this day of feasting winds down, some of you might find yourselves snuggled up on the couch finally watching a Christmas movie. Some you might be sleeping off your turkey comas (or too much wine, no judgement here.) And some of you are slapping on your war paint and gearing up for another merciless Black Friday.

To be clear, I don’t fault anyone for going Black Friday shopping. I have been Black Friday shopping a few times. A lot of people consider it to be another Thanksgiving tradition, and there is nothing wrong with that! I’m not talking about the controversial, moral principles of Black Friday. I won’t get into the discussion of how immoral it is to take retail employees away from their families or how hypocritical it is to spend the day giving thanks and the night fighting over material items. Lets just assume we all agree on whatever opinion you have on that topic. I understand the financial appeal of Black Friday, but I have a few reasons why this new age tradition is no longer for me.

After all that delicious Thanksgiving eating and drinking, I’m just too full and drunk for shopping. I just spent the entire day eating heavy food and washing it down with mulled wine. I don’t have a clear enough mind to be out shopping! Just ask my fiance. He made the mistake of taking me to Target one night after I had been drinking wine. It was great fun for me! Not so much fun for my wallet, and not a financial risk I’m willing to take again.

Not to mention, being “Thanksgiving full” and then trying on clothes sounds exactly like hell. We all know that technically Black Friday shopping is intended to be the official start of Christmas shopping; meaning that you should primarily shop for others. It sounds like a great idea, but it doesn’t always end up that way. Sure, I’ll pick up a few gifts on Black Friday, but I always end up walking away with more stuff for myself. And I know I’m not the only one! Trying on clothes is already a chore. We don’t need to add in the horrendous Thanksgiving food baby we all get after eating all day! Honestly, who’s idea was that?

Let’s get something straight: there are few things I’ll wake up early on a day off for, and shopping is not one of them. Especially the day after a holiday! Thanksgiving is a lot of work, whether you’re hosting the whole shebang or just bringing over a dish. If I can help it, I’m not waking up early the next day for anything. One year, I woke up at 1 AM to drive an hour and a half away to an outlet mall that promised all the deals. I was basically dead to the world the next day.

And before you even say it, I know stores are opening up on Thanksgiving afternoon with the deals. Technically you could go after Thanksgiving dinner and sleep in the next day. Please refer to the previous paragraph as to why I ain’t doing that either. I love to go shopping, don’t get me wrong. To me, it’s just not worth it.

The deals aren’t even that good unless you’re willing to risk your life over some bed sheets. Which as I’m sure you figured out by now, I am most certainly not. Most of the good deals are on larger items that I’m not purchasing anyways, like televisions and other electronics. And you always have to go to a large department store to get these savings, which I try to avoid on a normal day. Walmart gives me the creeps throughout the year. I’m not risking getting trampled or punched by going there with all the crazies on Black Friday.

Most importantly, I’m trying to get my holly jolly on the day after Thanksgiving!

I don’t usually partake in Christmas activities before Thanksgiving. I like to enjoy each holiday for what their worth. But after the last bite of pumpkin pie, its time to deck the halls! I love curling up on the couch and watching Christmas movies. After Thanksgiving dinner, it’s officially socially acceptable to do that! I’m not going to give that up to schlep around a mall with a million strangers.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Black Friday is great for some people, but not for everyone. Personally, I like to enjoy my holidays in a more relaxing way. I like to sit around my house with my closest friends and family, eating and drinking and enjoy each others company with no pressure. I don’t want to worry about having to be somewhere or spending money. I just want to enjoy the moment.

No matter how you’re spending your Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you enjoy it in your own special way!

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit a Disney Park Alone

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit a Disney Park Alone

I know what you’re thinking. Who would want to go to Disney alone? Isn’t it more fun with friends? Yes, of course Disney days are enjoyable with friends and family. Disney Parks are the backdrop of so many of my most cherished family memories, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. But recently, I’ve spent some time in the parks alone and realized that it has a lot of perks!

The first time I went solo to a Disney Park it felt very weird. After almost 20 years of Disney family vacations, I didn’t know what to do without them trailing behind me! Even though I was the one who usually suggested what we do next, suddenly I had no idea what I should do. Would I get bored waiting in lines without someone to distract me? Would I be judged for getting on rides alone? Would I even have fun alone?

I quickly realized that there was a certain freedom that comes with exploring the park on your own. I actually really enjoyed it! And, I think you would too! Here’s my list of reasons why solo Disney days are totally worth it:

1. Meeting characters solo makes for better pictures (sorry, family.)

I’m just gonna go ahead and say what no one else will: character meet and greet photos are way better solo. Sorry, family! I definitely love the pictures of myself and my family with Mickey, but there is something so special about interacting with your favorite character one-on-one.

In fact, this was the first thing I did on my first solo park day! I was in Epcot and decided to visit Daisy Duck in her usual spot, Legacy Plaza West (Pluto meets here sometimes too!) This was actually a huge moment for me, as I hadn’t done anything like this before. But, It was amazing! I got some really great pictures with Daisy that I still love today.

2. Just sit somewhere and people watch as long as you want.

Grab a snack or a Starbucks coffee, plant yourself in a strategic location, and just observe. You’ll be amazed at what you see and overhear. One time in Frontierland, I overheard a woman tell her husband that she hated him and his children and when they got back home she was filing for a divorce! Tragic for that family, but it’s one of my most memorable tidbits from people watching at Disney.

You can also witness some seriously magical moments in the park from stepping back and just taking it all in. Once at Disneyland, I watched a baby girl meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider for the first time! The expression on her face was priceless, especially when they let her wear Rapunzel’s tiara! The Disnerd in me was living for this moment. Seriously, I was almost crying.

3. Wander around the gift shops without pressure.

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for Disney Parks merchandise. I can’t help it! And lately, they have been absolutely killing it with unique and practical pieces that I actually wear and use outside of the parks. But not everyone is interested in wandering around gift shops. I’ve been to Disney with many different types of people and felt like a burden for wanting to peruse a gift shop when others didn’t.

On solo Disney days? Peruse away, my friends! Seriously, its awesome! Most of the time, I’m not even buying anything. I just like to see what’s out there. But when I do buy something, I usually like to take a creative shot of it in the park. Minnie ears are my favorite merchandise to photograph in the park (remember, you’re learning something new about me today. I’m a very serious Disnerd.) It can be a bit awkward to ask people to wait for me while I take a photo of my newly purchased Minnie ears. Going solo? You don’t have to ask, you can just stand there and take as many pictures as you want. Do your thing.

4. Get a front row seat to any show.

This is so underrated, but so important. Going to Disney with a huge group of people can make finding enough seats together at a show or parade impossible. Even a small group can prove to be difficult if you don’t get there in enough time! Flying solo at Disney means that there is almost always room for you to squeeze in any show wherever you want.

Again, I am someone who loves taking photos at Disney. Have you ever tried taking photos of a show or parade when you have fifteen rows of people in front of you? Yeah, not easy. Grab a front row seat and I promise you’ll get the best photos of your life.

5. Slay the single rider line.

Some of Disney’s most popular attractions offer a single rider line to fill in spots and make the wait time go faster. This is where you can shine, my solo adventurers. You don’t even have to have that annoying discussion with your group about whether you all want to take the risk of not sitting together to possibly get on the ride faster in the single rider line. There’s always someone who doesn’t want to ride alone, and either ends up settling or convincing the entire group to wait for a space all together. Therefore, someone always isn’t totally satisfied.

If this is the point in my post where you’re like “Okay, you had me up until now. There’s no way I’m riding anything alone! How awkward!” First of all, I feel you. I was the same way! If you want to be that confident park guest who just walks up to any ride and proudly announces “Single rider, right here!” Start small. Go on a few rides that will seat someone alone (any continuous track or Omnimover rides, like Haunted Mansion or Voyage of the Little Mermaid, will seat guests alone) and test out how you feel. These are great rides to go on alone because it’s dark and you hardly ever have to see any other guests. Work your way up to the rides that might require you to sit next to or even (gasp!) interact with a stranger. Before you know it, you’ll be whooping your seatmates butt on Toy Story Mania and not even feel weird about it!

6. No snack sharing! (or shaming!)

I could probably write hundreds of posts about Disney food, but I’ll just mention it here this time. Disney has some of the best snacks in the game. Don’t fight me on this. I can’t even pick a favorite because there’s just too many to choose from. Every park has different snack options, so there’s always something new to enjoy!

I should mention that this perk comes with a price. I usually share snacks with whoever I’m park hopping with so that we can have a little bit of everything we want. When you fly solo, chances are you’re gonna get full fast from all those snacks you have to finish by yourself (major first world problems.) But then again, you’re by yourself so no one will know if you buy one of everything from Main Street Confectionery. Snack on, my friends.

7. Get wherever you want so much faster.

I never realized how long it takes to get around Disney Parks when you have a slew of people with you. Someone always has to use the bathroom, someone is always hungry, and someone is always tired. The distractions are endless. It’s amazing anyone in a group larger than two makes it to their Fastpass on time.

When I visit the parks alone, I can get anywhere I want so quickly because a) I know where I’m going, and b) I don’t have to check to make sure my group is still with me. Not gonna lie, it is extremely liberating. I zip through the crowds, using little pathways that average guests don’t necessarily use, and all in record time.

8. Solo trips give a new perspective.

Quite possibly the most interesting perk of visiting Disney Parks solo is the new perspective you get of the parks themselves. It’s one of the times I can honestly say I felt in the moment in the parks. I was paying attention to the music playing in each area, the intricate details that go into theming, and just the way the park functions as a whole. Nothing is a coincidence at Disney. That is a huge reason why I love visiting so much. Every single thing you see in the parks was poured over by Imagineers before it made it there. Everything has a meaning and everything has a story.

When you visit alone, you have time to appreciate the little wonders that make up this magical place. Disney isn’t just a bunch theme parks. Each Disney Park is truly a work of art; from Disneyland, CA to Tokyo Disneyland, and everywhere in between. Its easy to get overwhelmed and not truly appreciate the magic. Even if you can’t visit the parks alone, I encourage everyone to take a moment during your day to stop and take it all in. Disney Parks are magical places. I hope everyone gets an opportunity to thoroughly experience it.

P.S. I am always here for anyone who has Disney questions! I primarily visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL but have visited Disneyland in Anaheim, CA before as well. Shoot me an email or message me on Instagram if you have any questions. I love helping people plan their Disney vacations!

My Very Real College Experience

My Very Real College Experience

Going to high school with a bunch of wealthy, smart kids meant that my senior year was spent learning about the fabulous universities my classmates would be attending the following year. I was born and raised in a college town, so I always just assumed I would stay home and attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. It is a beautiful and highly accredited university that thousands of students from all around the country apply to attend. I could continue living with my parents while getting a great education right down the street. It seemed like a perfect idea, right?

However, there were a few hiccups in this plan that five-year-old me had never considered. I didn’t quite have the grades for UNCW. It’s not that I made bad grades. I was smart, but not highly motivated. High school didn’t interest me. The only classes I was interested in were my art classes, and I knew I wasn’t talented enough to pursue a career in art.

I got my first job at the beginning of junior year and quickly realized I enjoyed working! It felt good to get a paycheck every other week of money I had earned by myself. Maybe I permanently smelled of fryer grease and minimum wage, but I had my own money! The biggest issue was that I literally had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I loved animals, but I wasn’t dedicated enough to spend that much time in school to become a veterinarian. At one point, I thought I would make a good elementary school teacher. My senior project included me working with a group of elementary school students, teaching them about art therapy. I really enjoyed teaching those youngsters. But, I live in North Carolina, where teachers are paid some of the lowest wages in the entire country. Most of my own teachers at the time had second jobs just to make ends meet. I knew I wasn’t cut out for that lifestyle.

Logic led me to the medical field. Everyone kept telling me as long as there were humans, there would be a need for health care. It was a good industry to get into because it wasn’t going anywhere and could provide a comfortable living. UNCW had a great nursing program, but there again, I didn’t have the grades. So, I did what a lot of my peers were doing and applied to East Carolina University. Their admissions process wasn’t as selective as other universities and they were just as good of a school.

I applied to ECU and a few weeks later received my acceptance letter. I was ecstatic! My parents were so proud of me, we toasted with champagne that night. That feeling lasted for a few months, until reality quickly set in. I had no idea how I was going to pay for this. I didn’t qualify for any significant scholarships and the idea of student loans terrified me. My parents had a small college fund for me, but It would barely cover my first year at ECU. I began to experience frequent anxiety attacks concerning my future.

Like I said before, I went to school with a lot of smart students. Every other day someone was earning a scholarship or admissions into ivy league schools. It was extremely intimidating. Not to mention the many adults in my life telling me if I didn’t get a four year degree I’d never be successful. No pressure!

It’s not hard to see why things got so difficult during this time. After many long talks with my extremely supportive parents, I decided I needed some time to figure out what I wanted to do. I declined my acceptance to ECU and applied to my local community college. My plan was to enroll in the two year college transfer program and then decide if I wanted to go on to ECU or stay local at UNCW. I almost made it through my first year.

Toward the end of my second semester, I was struggling with severe anxiety. I skipped a lot of classes because I was too anxious to leave my house. The days I did make it to school, I spent about thirty minutes in my car convincing myself to get out and walk to class. Eventually, I just stopped going. I took a year off to get a hold of myself. During that time, I quit my restaurant job and began working in my family’s business. I liked having a set schedule and realized I was pretty good at my job there. I also got help for my anxiety. I began seeing my doctor regularly and got on medication that helped “level me out,” if you will.

At the end of that year, I enrolled in online classes back at my community college. I was ready to begin working toward my degree, but I wasn’t ready to be back in the classroom just yet. I began my schools Business Administration program. I took all the classes I could online, but toward the end of my program some courses were only available on campus. This was a moment I had been dreading; the return to the classroom. But, I had changed a lot since the last time I had been in a classroom. I purchased a home and a new car at just 21 years old. I was proud of myself! I finally felt like I had accomplished something that had nothing to do with school! And you know what? I found when I returned to campus, I enjoyed my classes. The students in the Business Administration program were almost all at least a few years older than me, but they were very serious about their education. They valued healthy classroom debates and genuinely wanted to do well. These students had more at risk than my high school or college transfer classmates. Most of them had their own homes and full time jobs on top of school, sometimes two! They had families, and children, and responsibilities beyond school. Despite all this, they still showed up every week and visibly tried their hardest.

It was inspiring.

They weren’t getting their degree because anyone was telling them. They weren’t pressured by society because they graduated high school with a class of five hundred students who almost all were moving on to large universities. They made the decision to be there because they wanted to better themselves, and they took it seriously. I thrived among these peers. I was actually paying attention in school and learning and enjoying it. I even made friends with some of my classmates, something I never had the courage or desire to do when I first began college. I found things in common with people who were so different than myself. I had conversations with people I might otherwise never had spoken to. And I felt so welcomed. I felt like everyone was welcomed. It was like we were all there to achieve the same goal and we genuinely wanted everyone to succeed.

In May of 2018, I graduated with two Associate degrees from Cape Fear Community College. I was, and still am, so proud of myself. My fiance and I have a wall at the end of our hallway where we hang up all our degrees and certifications. It’s a simple reminder every morning as we leave for work that we can accomplish anything if we put our minds to it.

There was a time where I considered giving up entirely on school. I honestly never saw myself walking across that stage. But, I’m so glad I did. I’m glad I went back to school and earned my degrees. And, my educational career isn’t over! I plan on getting my Bachelors degree at some point in the future. One of the most important things I learned in college, is that there is no wrong time to get your degree. I had many classes with a disabled military veteran who was in his late fifties, and he was going to school for the same reason I was. He wanted to better himself. Your life is not a checklist of things you need to accomplish at any certain point. Whether it takes you two years, four years, or twenty years, at the end of the day you should just be proud you went to school and got your degree. You should always be proud of yourself, no matter how long it takes for you to achieve your goals.

In Loving Memory of Ruth Daniels

In Loving Memory of Ruth Daniels

When I started this blog, I challenged myself to be the most honest version of myself. I challenged myself to live unapologetically. To stop worrying so much about what other people think and be the real me. To stop apologizing for my feelings because they’re too intense for some, or not intense enough for others. To embrace the things that excite me and understand the things that unnerve me. For that reason, I feel that one of my first posts should be very personal and honest. In order to truly live by this principle, I feel I should share a recent experience that has inspired this journey.

I had all four of my grandparents until I was twenty-three years old. I lived within a few miles from both for almost all my life. I spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents. We went out to eat together, I stayed at their homes, we went on trips together. I am very thankful for those times.

When I got older, I realized that as fortunate as I was, someday it was all going to end. Someday I wouldn’t have both sets of grandparents. Just as I was, they were only getting older. I hated that I sometimes thought about what would happen when that day came. I had never lost anyone of real significance in my life, so I had nothing to base these feelings on. There was no residual memory of this feeling to convince me to block it out. I had never experienced something like this, and my subconscious was secretly dreading it.

My maternal grandparents moved to our city when I was about eight years old. Before that, they lived an hour and a half away in the small town my mother had grown up in. I’d go visit them for a week or so at a time during school breaks. After they moved closer, I spent a lot more time with them. I went to their house every single day after school and continued to spend most of my breaks at their house. I won’t lie to you, I got very bored at their house. My grandparents didn’t go out much, so most of our time was spent at their house. We watched a lot of television during that time. However, I also learned a lot of valuable life skills that I still use today. My grandmother taught me how to sew. She gave me scraps of old clothes or sheets and let me poke and weave threads through the fibers until I figured it out. My grandfather taught me how to bake. He was a chef in the military during Vietnam, and still enjoys cooking to this day. I would bake brownies, cakes, cookies, whatever I wanted as long as he knew how to make it (and he usually did.)

When I got older, I didn’t see my grandparents as much. Soon, my parents trusted me to stay home alone after school and before I knew it, I had my license and a job. I didn’t go to their house every day anymore, and to be honest, I didn’t make much of an effort to see them. Don’t get me wrong, I still saw them often. We were together every single holiday and throughout the year for dinner at my parent’s house. I work in my family’s business, and they would stop by my office every so often just to visit.

My grandmother turned seventy-five in June of this year. A few months before her birthday, she sat me and my mom down and told us she wanted to have a big party for her birthday. We laughed and agreed to do what we could to make sure she had the birthday party she wanted. In the months leading up to her party, she called both of us regularly to remind us about it and tell us her ideas. She was so excited about her party! I found it endearing, albeit unusual for her. My grandmother

didn’t get very many moments that were specifically ‘hers’. She was always very quiet and humble. She didn’t want anyone to make a fuss over her. Which is why her excitement about her birthday party was so entertaining. She was determined to have a big party where all of her family was there, and they were celebrating her.

A few weeks later, my grandmother had a heart attack in the middle of the night. She was rushed to the hospital where she stayed recovering for almost a month. She was very sick, more so than anyone really imagined. She was always very proactive with her health. She went to the doctor regularly, tried to eat healthy and stay active. She still got around very well for her age. But the heart attack really set her back. I went and visited her a few days a week in the hospital. Some days were good, some days were bad. The entire experience was a nightmare, to be perfectly honest. At some point during this time, I realized that she might not be coming home. And she realized it too. One day when I visited her, she held my hand and told me how proud of me she was, and that she had always been proud of me. She told me that she loved me, and she looked forward to what life had in store for me. It felt like she was saying goodbye, and I wasn’t ready. Fortunately, that was not the last time I saw her. I still had several good days with her, talking and spending time together.

The last time I saw my grandmother I was with my mother. Three generations of women sitting together in one room. It is one of my favorite memories. We talked about our cats (I like to think we are three generations of crazy cat ladies) and laughed about something silly my grandfather did. My grandmother told me how much better she was feeling, and that she was making her own goals to move around more to get better faster. I had so much hope. For the first time in the longest month of my life, I felt like I had my grandmother back.

My grandmother passed away two days later.

Suddenly, I was living in the moment I had been dreading for so long. After twenty-three years of having both sets of grandparents just a stone’s throw away, I have now lost one. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I still don’t. It’s been almost three months since she passed away, and I now have an entire new list of bittersweet moments I am silently dreading. I am dreading the holidays this year, knowing that an important person in the background of all those memories will be missing. I am dreading the idea of my grandmother not being at my wedding in March. I am dreading the idea that she won’t get to be a great-grandmother to my future children. But the hardest part about all of this, is knowing that no matter what I do, I will never be able to see her again. This is a feeling I have never felt before, and I’m not sure what to do with it. For the first time in my life, I have no control over a situation. Nothing I can do will bring her back. This is the first time I have ever really, truly felt helpless.

Before you start, I already know she’s still with me in spirit. I feel her every single day. It’s not the same, but it’s comforting. And, it doesn’t quite make these feelings go away. Grief is a long process, and one I am still learning about. Every day is spent learning how to adapt to this new normal I am living in. There is one thing that truly comforts me, though. I believe my grandmother would have been very interested in my writing. She was always extremely supportive of all things creative. She still has my crayon scribbles hung around her house and hideous pottery I made in high school on display. She was happy with everything her grandchildren did. My grandmother bragged about her grandchildren to anyone who would listen to her. Any time I visited her church, her friends already knew who I was and whatever latest achievement I had made. They knew all about my cousin and my younger brother. She was extremely proud of us and loved us so much she wanted everyone to know. And as I sit here, crying in one of her old sweatshirts, I can’t help but smile. These are the moments I will reflect on when I miss her the most. It’s the knowledge that one day I will only reflect on her with happy, loving memories.

This is a moment I do not dread, but look forward to.

Cats and “Meowmosas”: A Trip to the South’s First Cat Cafe

Cats and “Meowmosas”: A Trip to the South’s First Cat Cafe

The moment I learned there was a cat cafe just three hours away from my hometown I began planning a trip to Charleston, SC. I’ve always liked Charleston, so I really didn’t need an excuse to spend a weekend there. Plus, its cats. Cats are my thing. It was kismet!

Pounce Cat Cafe and Wine Bar is a cat lovers dream. The cafe is located on Meeting Street in Downtown Charleston. Its just a few blocks away from the famous Charleston City Market and one block over from the popular shopping district of King Street. The cafe was established in 2016 by two self-proclaimed crazy cat ladies who joked about opening their own cat cafe all throughout college. So, they did it! Within two short years, Pounce opened their second cafe in Atlanta, GA and has adopted out almost 1,000 cats!

The cats at Pounce come from various local shelters. The premise behind a cat cafe is to get normally unsocialized shelter cats out of cages and playing with potential adopters. For $15, you get one hour of playtime in the cat room and a complimentary beverage. Yep, you can sip wine and melt into a puddle of fluff. Does it get better than that?

I booked my time slot online before heading to the cafe. Reservations are not mandatory, but highly recommended. While I was there I watched them turn away several walk-ins because they were booked for the day. So yeah, make a reservation. And, get there a little early! You want to have enough time to get your drink, and possibly a snack, before its time to play with the fur babies. We went on a Saturday and ‘Meow’mosas were on special. Yes, it’s just a regular mimosa but it has a fun name so obviously I ordered it. We got our drinks and took a seat in the cat themed cafe room, which is separate from where you play with cats.

Our play-time came, and we were finally allowed out in the cat room. Yay! I was worried about the size of the group when I booked the reservation. What if there was too many people in the cat room and not enough cats to play with? Well let me tell ya, that is not an issue here. There was eleven other people in the cat room with me and my fiance. I have no idea how many cats were in the room, but everyone was always playing with at least one at any given time.

Pounce has fun extras that you can purchase to enhance your experience. A couple in our group opted for the extra that gave you a small bag of cat treats to feed the cats. I wished I had done this once I saw how much the cats crowded around this couple! Seriously, they loved it! I did hear an employee tell the couple to limit how many treats they give out, as the cats get treats pretty much all day. They also have other packages that include things like snacks, bottles of wine, and even cat ears to wear while you make new furry friends!

Also, its worth mentioning that Pounce does not smell like a litter box. I’m sensitive to the litter smell. I hate it in my own house (stay tuned for a later blog post about how I conquered the infamous litter box smell) and can usually smell it in others homes. Sorry, I’m that person. I noticed two litter box areas that were very well hidden. One was in a giant wooden box with a hidden side entrance and the other was a fun, fake plant that doubles as litter box! If you’re interested how that works, you can check it out here on Amazon.

So, I know what you’re wondering. What about the cats?! They were amazing, of course! There are a lot of toys scattered around the room to play with and a lot of the cats were really receptive to the toys. There were cats sleeping, and the cafe asks you don’t pet sleeping cats. I broke this rule and got scratched for it. Lesson learned.

Keep in mind that the cats at Pounce are real shelter cats. Meaning they aren’t all tiny, cuddly kittens. In fact, when we visited most of the cats were a year old or older. This didn’t bother me at all, but I could understand how someone who might have been expecting a plethora of kittens would be slightly disappointed. Also, some of the cats were totally uninterested in playing or being petted. I mean, does your cat want to be messed with 24/7? No. So, understand that there will be cats sleeping or some who just flat out reject you. Don’t take it personally.

However, so many of the cats wanted to play or were just fun to watch! My favorite cat was Clementine, a grey tabby who I was able to coax out from under one of the couches. She wasn’t the most playful, but she was extremely content with being petted which was enough for me. Another memorable cat was a giant tabby named Flapjack. This dude was seriously chunky, but so playful!

Overall, my experience at Pounce was really great! I would definitely recommend for any cat lover. If I didn’t already have two fur babies of my own, I would have totally adopted from Pounce. There were quite a few cats that would have made great additions to our family. So, if you’re in the Charleston or Atlanta area and you love cats, this is the place to be!

Comment below any questions about experiencing a cat cafe, or tell me about your experience at Pounce! Until next time, folks!