Thursday, May 19, 2016

My Attempt at Having It All

I have been at LSMSA since I graduated from college. When I was trying to decide if I would accept my job offer to become a Student Life Advisor, the Director of Residence Life at my alma mater advised me to take the position while I was young enough to do--and love--a live-in position. While I knew what he meant, this week, I have started to really see where I thought I could "have it all" but have finally had to make a choice. I am no longer at a point where I can do my current job without making major sacrifices to other aspects of my life. Under different circumstances--like the location of my work being in the same city as Richard's--I would not have needed to make this choice so soon. Although I made the decision to leave my position as Coordinator of Residence Life months ago, I am recognizing now the extent to which I am at a crossroads.
Richard and I got engaged in May 2014, largely because it was the right time for us in our relationship but partially because of where he was in his career. Richard was finishing his third year of medical school, and he wanted me to feel like I had a say in possible locations for his residency. Before interview season even started in his fourth year of medical school, I told Richard that I wanted to keep my position at LSMSA if he landed in Shreveport for residency. After talking with people about this period of time following graduation from medical school, the consistent bit of information I received was that Richard would be working all of the time. I decided I would rather hold onto a job I knew I loved than to search for something new in Shreveport.

We were married on June 13, 2015, and since August, I have balanced a live-in position in a different city with building a marriage. It has not always been easy. There have been times when I have felt inadequate as a leader and resource for my students, and I hate that. I like to think that I have done the best I could at being a wife, given our circumstances; whenever possible, I tried to make sure I was taking care of Richard however I could. Other times, I have really rocked at doing my job and being a wife. I've taken care of myself, my husband, my coworkers, and my residents all in one day and even ended the day with a Jazzercise workout with some of my students. 

Last night, I helped pull off Senior Breakfast, the first of several back-to-back events for or focused on the graduating class. Celebrations of accomplishments, well wishes for the future, and recognition of jobs well done have been part of the past few months with banquets, award ceremonies, and parties, but the next few days are the intense ones. Countdown clocks to graduation are in the single digits, and the coming days are booked solid with Spring Fling, Senior Recognition Ceremony, and, of course, Graduation. Somewhere in there, everyone will move out of the residence halls, too.

Choosing Richard and our family is something everyone around me has understood; my hesitation in leaving LSMSA, on the other hand, has not been as easily received by outsiders. As challenging as explaining what "living in" really means can be, I have found it more difficult to communicate why it is I love being a professional res-lifer and why I have chosen this lifestyle as long as I have. Late nights mediating roommate conflicts, handling discipline issues, and herding angry teenage girls after a fire alarm in the middle of the night will not be part of my life anymore, and that excites me. With the loss of those times, however, comes the absence of many things I love: laughing about funny moments in class, celebrating college acceptances and sports wins, doing handstands against the hall walls, watching "just one more" episode of Gossip Girl together, and sneaking out for a late night trip for a snack will no longer be a regular part of my life. With the release of much daily stress, I am sacrificing the joys of being around a multitude people who make me laugh each day, no matter how stressed out I am.

After Senior Breakfast, it finally hit me that in a few weeks, LSMSA will no longer be part of my daily routine. The balance I have tried so hard to maintain will cease to exist. While I definitely plan to find a job in Shreveport, my husband and I will come home to the same place every day. Nightly conversations consisting of lines such as "I won't see you tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow is my day off, so I will see you then. And I can't wait." will not be a regular part of my life anymore. I have done what I could to try to manage two consuming roles I have loved deeply, but the time has come for me to move on from Caddo Hall. I am comforted that this place and the people here whom I love will be in good hands for the future, but I cannot help worrying about how I will adjust to life without it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Lesson in Community

It's 7:08 pm on Monday, May 16, 2016. I have just arrived five minutes late for my shift and taken a seat at the front desk of Caddo Hall for my last closing shift of the school year.

Before this, I took a shower because I just finished (with the help of a few students) taking out all of the trash in our building.  Today has been a tough one; with turmoil in my personal life and packing to move to Shreveport, I am wearing thin. Yet none of that matters in my job, because my job is not about me, and some days I have to put on a strong face.

Graduation is this Saturday, and people are packing their rooms and starting to move out. We just came off of the weekend, so the trash has not been pulled since Friday morning. Our housekeeper was out today, and the trash removal part of the world stopped spinning. Unfortunately, the trash making part of the world was going at a faster rate than usual.

As I came in from the sprinkling rain this evening, sweaty from hurling bags of trash into the dumpster with a small group of teenage girls, I realized that I could not remember a single day during the school year that our housekeeper has ever taken off. In nearly three years, I do not recall her missing a day of work. When she was gone today, I felt it. The floors need to be mopped. There are small pieces of garbage scattered near the entrance of our building because several of the heavy bags busted, and we had to wrestle trash into a second bag to get the trash to the dumpster. I left the trash there.

Exasperated, I wondered aloud, "How do we do this without a housekeeper?"

A few years ago, we were without a housekeeper for what seemed like forever but was probably just a few weeks. Kristy, the Coordinator of Residence Life before me, bribed the students with pizza to mop the floors and pull the trash. We made it through, but somehow it seems worse today. Maybe it's because I'm in charge. Perhaps it's because people are moving out and making what feels like actual tons of trash.

The answer to my question is, of course, something I knew: we are a community, and everybody has a role. I am accustomed to everyone doing their part and pulling their share of the weight, and generally things run smoothly around here. I have been incredibly blessed to work in a place where people feel like they are part of a community, and when they are gone, their absence is felt. It is extremely humbling to recognize that I cannot do my job without the help of others and without other people pulling their weight. Even after years in the residence hall, I cannot hold this monster down myself. We have to work together to do our best.

Moreover, my role is one dedicated to service to others. I am required each day to put aside whatever is bothering me or going on in my personal life to be a support system for people who need it. Sometimes that means being the parent, but other times I am the cheerleader. There are days when I am given the confidence of students going through terrible troubles and others where I celebrate amazing achievements with extremely talented young men and women. I am a resource, a helper, and an ally. (Some days, I am better at these roles than others.)

Even before I arrived in Louisiana and on the campus of LSMSA, I have felt the embrace of family and community about which our school loves to boast. Whenever I've needed it, I've had my questions answered and been given a helping hand. I have been supported by my students, my coworkers, my boss, and countless others in our community. There are so many things I love about this place, and they have all made my decision to leave incredibly difficult...most days. Even though I wish our housekeeper had not been sick today--for her sake and mine--her absence inadvertently reminded me of how much it has meant to me to be part of our community and how fortunate I have been to work in such a supportive environment. I will sorely miss this place.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The End of an Era (Really, How It Began)

In November 2015, I did something I had said I would do for years but never made the time to tackle: I competed in (and won!) National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The challenge is to write 50,000 words or more during the month of November; everyone who achieves this goal is declared a "Winner." I have a NaNoWriMo sticker on my laptop now as a regular reminder of the experience--the write-ins, word sprints, late nights, and more.

My old co-worker Kristy and I often discussed how we needed to write a book about our experiences working in residence life at a residential high school, because so much of what we go through is a combination of hilarious and unbelievable. I used NaNoWriMo to start chronicling my years working at LSMSA; with names mostly changed and my place of work renamed to Lots of Letters School for Smart Kids (LOLSSK) I scratched the surface of telling my story by writing just over 50,000 words in November.

Graduation is on May 21 this year, and I am regularly reminded of how quickly my time at a place that has become extremely important to me is drawing to a close. I plan to post several times next week about different aspects of what the first job of my career has meant to me and what I will miss as I move forward in the future. (Someday, I'll get back to more Rodan + Fields-related blogging, but right now there is a lot of time-sensitive stuff going on in my personal life that I feel like writing about.)

Last night, I opened my novel file for the first time since November 30 (one of the mantras for NaNoWriMo is "Editing is for December!"...nobody specifies which December, though) and read the first few pages. After some light edits, I am posting it here as a teaser for next week. As it turns out, other than some name changes, the first pages of my NaNoWriMo novel describe how I ended up in Dirty Natty pretty thoroughly.



Offer and Acceptance
I went to the Lots of Letters School for Smart Kids (LOLSSK) because I wasn't really sure what to do, and it seemed like it would be better for my career and my life than moving home would be. I graduated from college at a time when jobs were difficult to come by, or at least the types of jobs that my peers and I - wide-eyed in our early twenties - wanted were tough to come by. We had started college a few years earlier with the idea that if we earned a degree, a $50,000 job in the city, state, or country of our dreams would be waiting on the other side. In fact, $50,000 was just the beginning.

I had also grown up in a time where people told me I could do whatever I want with my life. And while I recognize that is true, what people don't always tell you is that you might not get the direct route to doing what you want. That was the case with me as I graduated from college with a bachelor's degree...and seven rejection letters from assorted medical schools.

Since medical school had almost always been my plan, I wasn't sure what to do next other than act defeated. On the last day of my undergraduate classes, I came home and crashed in my bed. I had about a week of finals to go before I was on my own in the world with my bachelor's degree and the contents of my room.

And by out in the world, I mean unemployed and living with my parents. In 2010, moving home after college and living with one's parents did not have the stigma it once had because everyone else was doing it too. In retrospect, I don't know what I was so worried about.

Fortunately, my friend Darrell, a flamboyant fraternity consultant preparing to start a graduate degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs, was on campus that day and wanted to see me as I was wrapping up my college career. In my overwhelmed state, Darrell pointed out that between my experience as a sorority member and a resident assistant, I had a decent resume to become a young student affairs professional myself. If nothing else, I could work in student affairs while I reapplied to medical school. Oh, and there was the whole bit about liking student affairs and being pretty good at it. In the search for vocation, those are two pretty important qualities as well.

“I don't have a Master's Degree,” I whined at the suggestion. “Don't those jobs require a Master's?”
“Not all of them,” Darrell said cheerfully. “Let's see what we can find!”

After he pulled me away from my bed where I was huddled up under some blankets, Darrell and I started looking for jobs to which I could apply. Just from one website, he was able to quickly pull eight positions for me. He pasted the job descriptions into a word document and instructed me to apply for all of the jobs before the weekend ended.

So I did.

I started rounding up recommendations and pasting my last five years of job experience – quite the task for someone who worked several small jobs throughout college – and the next week, I received an e-mail from Brittany Berry, the Director of Student Services at the LOLSSK. She wanted to interview me for a position as Not a Dorm Mom (NDM), which would entail me overseeing a floor of approximately forty high school girls. It was sort of like my job as a Resident Assistant (RA) in college, except that I would be legally responsible for those people. And they were high school students. So it was really like being a parent to people who weren't much younger than I was. Even though I had referred to the school as the LOLSKS in my cover letter (rookie mistake!) Brittany was interested. I guess my past experience looked good and relevant. We set up a time to talk, and I did my best to prepare for the interview.

When I had searched for positions earlier in the semester, I took my phone interviews seriously. I put on a suit and high heels and faced a wall so there was nothing to distract me as I talked through the interview and made notes of important facts I might want to reference when I wrote my thank you notes later – the hand-written ones I would mail as well as the e-mail note that would follow shortly after my interview.  On this day, I wore my baggiest pajamas, didn't bother to put on a bra, and loaded up my virtual farm game on my laptop while I waited for Brittany's phone call. She asked me questions about communication with my residents and co-workers, and we talked about programs I had done as an RA. She told me more about LOLSSK and what my job would entail if I came to work as a NDM. Just as I had done in my earlier interviews, I made notes of what to touch on when I wrote a thank you note. At the end of the interview, I asked questions – some that I actually didn't know, and some that I asked because I know you're supposed to ask questions in these interviews.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from Yvonne Byars, who was the Head Dorm Boss (HDB) and would be my direct supervisor if I worked as an NDM. We set up an interview for Sunday, which she forgot, so we rescheduled for Tuesday. I had an in-person interview at a family-owned insurance company – remember, my peers and I were willing to do anything for a job with benefits – earlier that day, so I did my phone interview with Yvonne in the driver's seat of my car at a Taco Mac restaurant where I would be meeting Darrell for dinner. My interview with Yvonne went pretty well, but I could tell things were getting serious when she asked me questions about what I would do to find private time for myself while living at my job and among my students. Yvonne flat out told me that the facilities were old and had their issues, and I calmly responded that I had spent several years in college living in old buildings, so I was used to it. When she asked if I had any questions at the end of the interview, I told her that I thought Brittany had answered my questions but asked if I could e-mail her if I thought of anything. She said that would be fine.

Over beers, Darrell enthusiastically inquired about my life over the past few weeks, and I discussed my progress in the job search. I told him I felt confident about both of my interviews that day. When I told him I had not asked any questions in my last interview, however, Darrell started flipping out. “You have to ask questions!” he exclaimed.

So when I e-mailed my thank you note to Yvonne, I also included some questions about operations of the building. She wrote me back with answers, and a few days later, I received the call from Brittany offering me the NDM position. If I wanted to, could move a few states away and be part of the LOLSSK family.

I told her I needed a few days to think, but what I really meant is that I wanted to hear back from the insurance company. I had really liked the people at the insurance company, and it seemed like a place with good values. If I couldn't go to medical school, I at least wanted to work somewhere that would treat me the way I thought I deserved to be treated. She asked me how long I needed, and I said a few days.

After the offer call, I told just about anyone who would listen that I had a legitimate employment option. In a conversation with Stefan, my university's Director of Residence Life, I told him I was waiting to hear back from an insurance company, and he remarked that I could work in insurance whenever I wanted, but this was the kind of job to take when I was young and could still do it. So, I went in an empty office, called Brittany back, and accepted the job. A few hours later, I received the call that the insurance company had gone with another candidate. Even though it didn't feel good to hear that – I really struggle with rejection – it seemed like things were falling into place.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Different Kind of Mother's Day Post

I remember standing in the card section of CVS one year in college and trying to find a card that didn't comment on how supportive my mother had been or how strong our relationship was, because we had been fighting, and none of that seemed true. At last I found one that was Elvis-themed and said something like "For all you do..." on the front and "Thank you, thank you very much" on the inside. (A few weeks later, I watched her rip the card in half and throw it in the trash in the middle of an argument about something, probably my Organic Chemistry grade.) Some years, it's like that; even knowing that I love my mom and always will, I never want to send a card that does not actually reflect my feelings at that time. Other years, things are going well between us and I can pick the flower-iest, glitter-iest, most gushing card in the store. 

After some reflection, I cannot pinpoint exactly when my relationship with my mom became so difficult. High school was not the easiest time, but we really started to struggle when I went to college. Especially after I joined a sorority. There were several difficult years where my dad was caught between us in whatever thing we were arguing about at that moment, and even after college, we did not find much resolution. I think watching me grow increasingly independent was tough for my mom, particularly when I was making choices and decisions that she did not think were the best for me. 

Of course, not everything was her fault. Not being a mother myself, I can imagine but cannot fully understand the challenges and struggles of raising a child. I know I was not always easy to handle. As I thought about what I would write today, I realized that there is nobody else I have uttered (or yelled) the phrase "I hate you" at more than my mother. I don't actually hate anyone, but if I did, there are plenty of people who would merit my hatred more than my mother. I am saddened at the realization that I have used these terrible, awful words to hurt my mom more than anyone else. 

Friends have tried to offer me explanations of why my mom and I clash the way we do, but I have yet to find an explanation that I fully believe. Maybe I never will. At the root of it all, I think we are two incredibly different people trying to be ourselves but also accommodate each other. In fact, she really does not enjoy some of my favorite things, including knitting, running, and even smiling, so we sometimes struggle to connect. Moving to Louisiana expanded my horizons and increased my tolerance for spicy food, but she resists, saying "I don't like that Louisiana food." We do share a love for reading, napping, and putting on our pajamas after a long day, but those are not the best commonalities to bond over. I am starting to like red lipstick almost as much as she does; perhaps some day we can join forces in a quest to find the perfect red lipstick. Even with our differences, though, my mom and I talk several times per week and stay updated with what is going on in the other's life.

As Facebook fills up with photos of my friends with their mothers on big days like graduation or their weddings, I have neither of those types of photos. For some reason, we did not take family photos after my high school graduation, and my mom was not in attendance at my college graduation. After my wedding, family photos came to a screeching halt when my mom made a mean comment, and I started crying. There are literally no photos of us together on my wedding day.

Like I mentioned earlier, my mom is not into smiling, but I did manage to snag this photo after Christmas when I was playing with my selfie stick.
My mom, sister, and me in December 2015
Of course, not everything about my relationship with my mom is bad. Like I mentioned in my haircut post, my mom has always made sure my needs are met. As I have grown older, I realize now how great my family situation was growing up and how much my parents were able to do for me what so many mothers and fathers would like to do but simply cannot, for lack of time, money, or something else. My mother has placed the needs of others--certainly mine included--before her own more times than I can count. 

My mom was the one who answered the phone at 1 am when I called hysterical because I didn't want my dad to die. She still checks on me when she knows I am sick, and when things between us are going well, she lets me know that she is proud of me. When some jerkface boys broke my heart and I cried for days, she cared for me and even said more than once, "I wish I could take the pain for you." I have watched my mother provide gentle care to my dad and her father in their last days. She has, without complaint, done whatever was needed to make sure the people she loves were as comfortable as possible as they battled terrible sickness and faced excruciating pain.

As I grow older and Richard and I start our own family, I think I can learn from my relationship with my mom and be a better mother by duplicating many of her ways. Our mother-daughter relationship is certainly complicated, but we both seem well aware of that fact. It would not be totally honest to say that I would not change a thing. Instead, I think the best thing I can do today is let my mom know she is appreciated, pray for guidance to improve our relationship in the coming year, and be thankful that she is still here to hear that I love her. If you're feeling the same way this Mother's Day, know that it's okay and that you're not alone. 

Happy Mother's Day, everyone, no matter your mother situation!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why I Chose to Donate My Hair to Children With Hair Loss

To say it like my students might, "I did a thing today." Today, the thing I did was get a drastic haircut. But that was not all! I also contributed to a future wig for a child who has medically-related hair loss.

I was the first born and the only child for many years, and as a result, my mom always made sure all of my needs were met (and typically, exceeded). Perhaps one of her greatest achievements was the regularity with which she scheduled my haircuts. I had bangs up until fourth grade, and I imagine that their upkeep was the main reason I took such frequent trips to the beauty shop. Nevertheless, my hair also stayed at or around my shoulders for much of my childhood because I was getting trims to my hair in addition to my bangs.

Summer 1994 or 1995 - before the world came to Atlanta in 1996. I am holding the blue pool noodle.
In the middle of third grade, I decided I was DONE with bangs. For ten months, I didn't cut my bangs. I was also losing my teeth at this time, and there are thankfully only a few photos documenting this time in my life. (This was before everyone had digital cameras.) Ten months in, I decided I'd had enough of growing my bangs out and asked my stylist to make my hair all one length. She complied.

Once the bangs were gone, the time between haircuts increased, and I started having longer hair. In high school, I decided I wanted to donate my hair to Locks of Love, and in 2008, I finally did it. I did it again in 2011.

Since my last donation, I have started running regularly, so a ponytail has been a must for me. I also wanted to have long hair for my wedding, so the haircut was delayed. Now, with summer on the way, a short haircut is incredibly appealing.

Two weeks ago, I booked my haircut with Wayne, who is well known in Dirty Natty as an excellent hair stylist. I started my research for where to donate my hair by looking at the St. Baldrick's Foundation Website. (To be brief, St. Baldrick's raises money to fund childhood cancer research. One of their popular fundraisers involves people--"Shavees"--committing to shave their heads to stand in solidarity with childhood cancer patients. Several men I know have been Shavees, and one of my students was a Shavee in 2014.) St. Baldrick's recommends several organizations, but I quickly narrowed my possibilities to two--Pantene Beautiful Lengths and Children With Hair Loss--because they only require eight inches to donate. My hair could not quite tolerate ten or twelve inches--some of my worst fights with my mother have been results of short haircuts--and I did not want to keep my long hair through the summer.

I did some investigation of both organizations, but what really sold me was my hairdresser telling me that the "real hair" wigs are primarily used by children now because the synthetic wig options for women are actually pretty great now. I was reminded of the "Lice" episode of The Office, which Ariel and I watched last weekend, and the subsequent episodes where Meredith wears several different wigs. I also liked that CWHL uses the term "medically related hair loss" because that means their donations encompass children with cancer, Alopecia, burns, and even Trichotillomania.
 My mom has a major meltdown every time I donate my hair, but I am excited about my new do! This is the first time my donation has left me with enough hair for a ponytail--I wanted to be able to pull my hair back for running--and I am looking forward to making another donation in a few years. I always have the attitude that it's just hair, and it will grow back. Plus, similar to donating blood, my contribution will make a huge difference for someone. Now I just have to remember to put sunscreen on the back of my neck. As much as I like the song "Redneck Woman," I don't want a red neck.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Adventures in the City

At Christmas, I could not decide what I wanted as my gift from Richard, so he offered to send me to New York to visit Ariel, my best friend. Whereas I moved to the delightful small Southern town of Natchitoches (which I lovingly refer to as "Dirty Natty,") Ariel braved the big city after college. I took advantage of my Christmas gift this weekend, and it was fabulous.

Because of crazy layover times (refer back to the part where I live in Natchitoches), the best option financially and schedule-wise was to fly direct to New York from Dallas. I was able to spend Thursday night with my Deltasig brother Paige and her daughter, Brooke. We enjoyed a delightful Tex-Mex dinner on the patio of a restaurant near where Paige lives, and Brooke let me watch Barney with her after dinner before I fell asleep on the couch. (You know you're getting old when a four year-old stays up later than you do...)
We did not take pictures on Thursday, so here's a picture of Paige, Brooke, and me from my wedding.
I picked a super early flight out of DFW, which meant that I made it to NYC in time for lunch. After a short ride with Lyft, Ariel and I were reunited. (I am always so proud of myself when I successfully transport myself from point A to point B in an unfamiliar place.) We set out to find some lunch--we settled on The Bonnie, which was delicious--and some better shoes than the flats I'd packed for the trip. I ended up purchasing a pair of cowgirl boots from DSW in Times Square. Leave it to me to purchase cowgirl boots the one time I travel out of the South. We also stopped in for happy hour at the Headless Horseman as we wandered around the city.

Friday night, we enjoyed a lovely wine and cheese spread at Casellula for dinner before going to see the Broadway production Kinky Boots. (We were able to purchase tickets in the middle of the ninth row!) The venue was small enough that being nine rows back made for an up close viewing experience, and Ariel and I loved it. The show was hilarious yet heartwarming, which is right up my alley. Ariel, on the other hand, asked "Why did they have to throw that love story in there?" which led to me agreeing that there was a pointless romantic bit in the plot. Oh well.
I think we could both rock some of Lola's Kinky Boots.

On the way home, we stopped for a late night snack at Artichoke Basille's pizza, which also proved to be a delightful treat. We enjoyed our pizza while watching The Office and Friends on Netflix..

We slept in on Saturday before going to get bagels from New York City Bagel and Coffee House. The bagels did not disappoint; I can see why they are Ariel's favorites. Then again, enough cream cheese can make many things delightful. After eating half of our bagels, we returned to Ariel's place to watch more Netflix, and I ended up taking a nap because my back was bothering me. (More on my back injury in the future...)

When I awoke, we went for a walk around one of the parks in Astoria and walked by the river. On the way to the river, we stopped for this photo opportunity with this sign that says "Everything is better with some wine in the belly." The owner of the restaurant was kind enough to take the photo for us once he realized I was not trying to steal one of the chairs outside of the restaurant (I was just going to prop my phone up on it to take the photo!) While he missed part of the sign, he did a good job capturing my new boots.

It is worth noting that in addition to being unprepared shoe-wise, I was not prepared to need a coat or scarf. In fact, my coats have all made the move to Shreveport and are no longer occupying real estate in my apartment. I guess that's April in Louisiana for you. Fortunately, Ariel has an abundance of scarves and at least one extra coat, so I did not have to suffer in the cold.

Following our romantic walk and talk in the park, we ate organic burgers and enjoyed an incredible Bananas Foster shake from Bare Burger. We spent the rest of the night hanging out at home, and we watched the last few episodes of The Office. I feel like a chapter of my life has come to a close now that I have seen the end of the series.

Similar to Saturday, we slept in on Sunday before settling into a delicious brunch, this time at Tru. I could certainly get used to the brunch lifestyle, although I would also have to walk as much as I did this weekend to remain reasonably healthy.

After a leisurely meal, we took a train into the city to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka "The Met") where I was excited to see the famous Met Steps from Gossip Girl in real life. Of course, the art within was (generally) more exciting than the steps. (I am referring, of course, to some of the modern art that I did not fully comprehend.)

We decided to take photos with our favorite works of art. Ariel made a thoughtful choice, whereas I opted for a more sarcastic photo.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to leave out the bonding I did with Layla, Ariel and Kevin's dog. As someone who is not great with dogs and does not like anyone--dog or human--to breathe or lick my face, I would say that enormous strides were made this weekend in my dog relations. Richard really wants a dog when we live somewhere bigger, but Ariel argues that she, Kevin, and Layla successfully coexisted in a studio apartment. Maybe we will get a dog sooner than anticipated.

Traveling can be exhausting, and the fast pace of the city was certainly not restful, but somehow I feel rejuvenated. It's comforting to be around familiar people and to take in their new way of living and doing things. I loved doing a few touristy things, seeing parts of the city as a local does, and resting with my best friend; I think we balanced our time well. I am starting this week grateful for lasting friendships near and far as I settle in to the last few weeks of my current job and lifestyle.