Blogging

The Long View: My First Cross-Country Road Trip

Go Jules Go The Log View My First Cross Country Road Trip title graphic 12JUN2019

Colorado Rocky Mountain hi-igh…” I belted at the top of my lungs, cranking up the volume. Sorry, Uncle Jesse, but this has to happen.

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S’okay. I’m used to your sh*t by now, Mom.

All right, so maybe I wasn’t actually driving through Colorado, but close-a-freaking-’nuff.

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Somewheresville, Wyoming, as seen from I-80W.

“I can’t believe you’re already in Wyoming!” Jenn texted.

“My ass can,” I fired back.

After leaving my home state, New Jersey, last Friday to embark on my very first (…and last?) cross-country road trip, I was starting to feel the burn. I was also starting to feel like I was living on borrowed time, having survived three extremely questionable roadside motels and one AirBNB in a town where Uncle Jesse and I bumped the population to 750 for the night.

Elmwood, Nebraska. …Wow, you’ve never heard of it. Huh. …What? No. I didn’t say anything. …Wait’ll Kristen at the post office hears about THIS.

As part of my latest Grand Caper -which involved quitting a very stable job and selling all of my stuff- I decided to move to central Oregon because I heard they had good beer and I still wouldn’t have to pump my own gas. Unfortunately, since they haven’t perfected teleportation and don’t ship Labradoodles who only drink ice water and hide in bathrooms because they’re scared of the dark, I was forced to drive myself.

Maybe if someone around here could pull his weight…

All in all, though, I’ve hit the jackpot. Sunny weather, friendly people, working car. I hit a few snags in Cheyenne, but my Maine road trip in April prepared me for all of that and more.

Go Jules Go car stuck in mud
Maine mud or quicksand: you be the judge.

Things I’ve learned so far, having covered New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and (partially) Utah:

The (giant, giant) bugs on I-80 all have a death wish.

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I’ve been on a lot of highways, and I’ve never had to actually use the gas station squeegee until this trip. …Every time.

Some stereotypes are…well…

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Nebraska: Um… Yup. (Okay, in fairness, I did a quick pass through of Omaha and Lincoln, and both looked pretty great.)

Gary, Indiana is NOT what The Music Man will have you believe.

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Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture. Stopping my car would have been a baaaaad idea.

You can fit way more into a 4-door sedan than you might think.

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Photos of Cheyenne, Wyoming are invisible until an old-timey filter gets applied.

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Three days on the road turns me into a person who wears socks with sandals.

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And also a person who will tempt her dog to keep her company by giving him his own pillow.

The world is as big or small as you make it.

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OH MY GOD I HAVE A GREAT IDEA LET’S FACETIME GRAMMY!!!!!!!

As I hit the scan button on my radio for the thousandth time and massage my neck, the same thought I’d been having for days pops back up: Holy sh*t. I’m DOING THIS. I’m DRIVING -AND MOVING!- ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I remember all of the winding roads that led me to this moment and laugh. Jiggling my right leg and checking my odometer, I suddenly feel like I earned every mile and every view.

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Blogging

Keeping My Chin(s) Up

Go Jules Go Keepig My Chins Up Title Graphic 5JUN2019

“Is that what I look like?” I asked.

Babs tilted her phone towards me so I could take a closer look at the photo she’d just snapped.

“I look cute!” I marveled, grabbing the phone from her hands.

“You are cute,” she replied in typical mom fashion.

I stared at the picture for another moment. Huh. I hadn’t wanted her to take the photo. I was sitting on her back porch in hiking gear, eating snacks, feeling grimy and gross and shiny and pudgy.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I am Feeling. My. Self. This was not one of them.

The next day, I sat in a plastic chair, sweat starting to pool at the base of my spine. Three fiery orange lights pointed directly at my foil-covered head.

“Just a few more minutes,” a woman in a black smock said with a smile, disappearing to concoct more ammonia-scented tinctures behind closed doors.

What am I doing? Why am I spending 3+ precious hours -not to mention hundreds of dollars- stuck inside on this beautiful June day, covered in chemicals, flipping through a magazine in order to learn more about Mark Hamill’s ill-fated marriage?

Did I think perfect highlights would give me that I Feel Pretty moment?

Amy Schumer I Feel Pretty
Photo credit

What was I really after every time someone snapped a group selfie and I insisted they take it from atop Mount Everest, or I decided to drop half a month’s rent on a universally accepted, if questionable, beauty ritual?

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Does this color bring out the desperation in my eyes?

In two days, I drive 2,780 miles to a new city that I intend to call home – at least for the next year.

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This is exciting. This is terrifying. As someone who, in the span of five years, lost her job, got divorced, moved three times, got dumped twice, started a new job, had a life-changing epiphany and went vegan, enrolled in (and finished) grad school, gave up a kitchen in favor of tiny living, quit her aforementioned new job, and sold all of her stuff, I’m still every bit as scared as ever to try something new.

Much like bravery -that thing you only have because you’re willing to sh*t your pants on a regular basis (…hang on, is that not how the saying goes?)- confidence isn’t an unwavering friend, staring you back in the mirror murmuring, “You got this.”

Confidence skirts behind bullied childhoods and face palm-inducing moments. Confidence comes as quickly as she goes, and holding onto her sometimes feels like reaching for that perfect hair day. There is no perfect hair day.

“See this?” I held up my phone to Babs, having just finished the 3+ hour follicle-torture ritual. “This is all lies.”

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“No, it isn’t! You just took that photo. I was sitting right next you!” she said with a sideways glance.

I snapped another picture, holding it underneath my face, sunlight highlighting every chin and their respective hairs.

“I also just took this one.”

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I don’t have the original photo because I deleted it as quickly as they canceled My So-Called Life. I hope you’ll accept this as a passable reenactment given that it took me four hours to decide I was willing to post it.

Babs looked at my phone and laughed.

In two days, I’m going to remind myself that during every one of those 2,780 miles, I have a choice. I can decide to see myself as the girl with 8,000 chins unforgivable flaws, incapable of making new friends in a new town -or- as the unstoppable girl woman brimming with something even more intoxicating than confidence: self-love.

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How do you keep a brave face?

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Just For Fun, Wipe the Drool

Who Knew Connecticut Had it All

Go Jules Go I Never Knew Connecticut Had it All Title Graphic 29MAY2019Before I make the big move out west next week, two of my closest friends and I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend in one giant love fest.

We picked New Milford, Connecticut because Jenn told us to and everyone should listen to Jenn. Apparently I’ve never actually spent any time in the place just two hours from my home state, New Jersey. With Mother Nature on our side, I was shocked to discover Connecticut had it all.

WINE FOR DAYS.

NATURE FOR WEEKS.

SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPRESS MY FRIENDS WITH MY VEGAN CULINARY PROWESS.

SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES FOR UNCLE JESSE TO IMPRESS US WITH HIMSELF (THEY LET HIM IN *EVERYWHERE*).

CHILDREN I ACTUALLY LIKED.

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“Your dog is older than me!”

GROWN-UP CHILDREN I ACTUALLY LIKED.

GOOGLE PIXEL 3 CAMERA PORN.

STORES I COULDN’T AFFORD EVEN IF I SOLD MY GOOGLE PIXEL 3.

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By the way, this photo is for sale.

FLEA MARKETS I COULD AFFORD BUT WASN’T SURE I WANTED TO.

AND LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST: THE MOST GLORIOUS HANDLEBAR MUSTACHE I’VE EVER SEEN.

Go Jules Go Elephants Trunk handlebar mustache 26MAY2019
The only thing wider than my smile – this beauty.

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Where have you traveled and found unexpected treasures?

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Blogging, humor, New Jersey is breathtaking

Home is Where the Start Is

Home is where the start is Go Jules Go title graphic_22MAY2019

“I haven’t gotten to bed at a reasonable hour in at least a week,” my sister, Lori, said, sliding into the driver’s seat of my car.

She pressed the “2” button on the armrest of my car door. After picking her up and explaining the floppiness of my sandals, she offered to drive the rest of the way to dinner where we were meeting a couple of friends.

My certified preowned Acura had proved worth its weight in gold over the past four years. Lori enjoyed the extra leg room her button press provided, using my car’s pre-programable driver’s seat position feature. It only allowed for two pre-programmed seat positions, and, well, I haven’t dated anyone in over two years shut up she was my number two.

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Although Jackson was definitely in the running.

Earlier in the week, one of Lori’s two indoor cats had taken off on an impromptu rumspringa, and between that, raising teenage twins, working as a 6th grade teacher, and recently cutting sugar from her diet, things were looking bleak.

“Well…I still don’t have anything to blog about for tomorrow…,” I offered meekly. “I was thinking about doing something about gratitude… Mostly since Grayson [your spoiled, jerk, OMG-I-love-him-so-much cat] is back!”

Go Jules Go Grayson the cat
“Oh that’s right. A warm bed and regularly timed meals appeal to me.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about all that I’m thankful for because many of those things I’m about to leave behind. I haven’t made any splashy announcements, but in two weeks, I leave the only state I’ve ever really called home.

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Me earlier this year, drunk thrilled to have caught the final train home to New Jersey after a New York City trip to visit a bloggy friend.

At first, signing a lease on an apartment 3,000 miles away felt amazing. I knew that feeling wouldn’t last. Because I love my life. I love my friends. I love my family. I love stupid New Jersey property taxes and stupid good bagels and the stupid feeling that I’m only ever seconds away from SOMETHING.

dear evan hansen
Today’s plans: this Broadway show. I AM SO SPOILED.

Yet at the same time I know -in that way you just DO- that moving cross-country is perfectly, exactly right. Goodbye a-hole adorable cats, goodbye #2 seat, goodbye everything bagels.

Except not really.

If quitting my corporate job in March and traveling for the past three months has taught me anything, it’s this: the world is a small place. And you’ll always have a home in it.

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Also apparently when you tell your friends you’re moving cross-country they just start buying you wine.

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Have you ever made a big move? How did it go?

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Blogging, PSAs

When the Bridge Appears

When the Bridge Appears Go Jules go title graphic_15MAY2019

Ah, crap. If I keep going this way, the sidewalk is going to end, and the cars whip around the next corner like they’ve got a death wish. MY death wish… 

I was on mile nine of one of my daily half marathons -a favorite past-time since resigning from corporate America two months ago– and fretting over the pedestrian “F You” I was about to encounter.

…But if I turn around, I’ve got to go alllll the way back to that other sh*tty spot…

Just at that moment, my most recent audiobook uttered the phrase “addiction to worry.”

…Then when I get home I still have to write a blog post. Ugh. I have nothing to write about. …Is that a rain drop? Not again…

I spotted a worn down gravel path veering away from the main road. What the…? I hadn’t been on this particular road in years, but certainly this path had always been there. It seemed to wind through someone’s front yard, yet was clearly meant for foot traffic. Stepping onto it cautiously, Uncle Jesse and I soon turned a corner and faced a sweet little covered bridge, connecting the gravel path to a cul-de-sac.

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Once again dazzled by the treasures my long walks often gifted me, I stopped to snap a couple of pictures and investigate a nest tucked into one of the supporting beams. This little bridge would ensure that I stayed on safe sidewalks for the next mile or so.

“Worrying is like playing the slots every day,” Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, continued. “Or worrying about the stock market crashing. Eventually, you’ll ‘win’ big. You’ll be right.”

Hendricks described the difference between worrying about things you can actually control -like someone who’s stepping on your foot- versus things you can’t. Most of the things we worry about, he said, are entirely outside of our control – because we make them up (what Brene Brown calls “rehearsing tragedy”). We imagine things going wrong because we all hit a certain happiness level and then subconsciously sabotage ourselves. Something inside of us -picked up from our early years, like most things- believes we’re only allowed a limited level of joy and success. How many times have you felt the high of a healthy lifestyle, only to gorge on potstickers and late-night Fuller House episodes (…just me)?

I thought about how I’d spent the past two months since leaving my full-time job: Ensconced in utter freedom, with plenty of money saved to travel, relax and enjoy my favorite things and people.

But what did I mostly do?

Worry.

How long will my savings really last? What will I do after that? Where am I going to live? What if I’m alone for the rest of my life? What if I wind up right back where I started? Why am I so lazy? 

I recalled countless moments where I’d caught myself having imaginary conversations that ended with me feeling angry, defeated, ‘less than’ or all of the above. When I downloaded this latest audiobook, I knew I needed to revisit some of the lessons I’d learned over the past few years. Gratitude. Visualization. Breathing.

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And a little Zac Efron fantasy never hurt.

It wasn’t hard to think of a million and one reasons to thank my lucky stars. Heck, just thinking of my Netflix queue brought a tear to my eye. The much harder part was believing I was worthy of this delicious slice of life. Was I doing my part for the planet, for society? Was it actually okay to quit a steady job, uproot my entire life, and hike every day? Was I leveraging my gifts and talents in a meaningful way? What I was really asking, of course, was, “Am I good enough?”

I stared at the little red covered bridge a while longer, remembering all of the bridges that had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, over the past year. Some literal, some not. Certainly if those bridges could talk, they would have said:

Duh bridge Go Jules Go Of course we’re all good enough. Why else are we here? As one of my very favorite passages goes, from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, “We did not come all this great distance, and make all this great effort, only to miss the party at the last moment.”

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So let’s party.

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How do you manage the addiction to worry? 

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humor, Just For Fun

Duluth, Dogs & Drag Queens

Go Jules Go title graphic Duluth Dogs and Drag Queens_7MAY2019

“Excuse me,” a tall, voluptuous woman with bleached blonde dreadlocks beckoned the uniformed man over with her elaborately manicured finger.

Her voice was playful and husky and I noticed an Adam’s apple. She held up the slip of paper in her hand.

“It says my boarding group is ‘basic.’ I ain’t basic.”

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Mine says the same thing and I’m pretty sure I am.

“No no no,” the Delta employee laughed. “Don’t worry, ma’am. You’re not basic.”

They joked around for a few minutes while I thanked my lucky stars that I’d managed to score a window seat, where I planned to use my winter jacket as a pillow.

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When you decide to fly to northern Minnesota in May.

I knew I’d need to stockpile Zzz’s before five days of Duluth’s Homegrown Festival. A friend* I’d met during my Master’s degree residency had invited me to get out of Jersey and attend the festival, and I suspected she wasn’t on my same post-leaving-Corporate-America schedule.

*f&%@#$-amazing-and-deserves-her-own-post friend

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Hang on, Shawna. You don’t get 12 hours of sleep a day?

In between seeing fantastic local musicians, we subjected her three-legged, one-eyed dog to all kinds of unbidden “fun”…

…saw the sights…

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Don’t you love the endless sea and sky vista behind us? Apparently your mind would have been blown had we arrived exactly 13 minutes earlier. Also, I’d just like to point out that you’re looking at not one, not two, but THREE left-handed vegans.

…ate so much plant-based foodie goodness…

…and of course, went on oodles of hikes.

The best part of the Duluth Homegrown Festival -a 20 year-strong, nonprofit tradition that features local musicians performing all over town for an entire week- was the close-knit community vibe. For eight straight days, like-minded music lovers united to support their fellow Duluthians, shouting, “Happy Homegrown!” and sharing smiles at every turn.

Besides the bargain booze, highlights included:

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Gaelynn Lea and her insane fiddle skills, playing in a church-cum-concert-hall.
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Fire, using equipment made by a local female welder.
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Jamesg, a white male rapper who dedicated an entire song to fanny packs.
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Major road construction + week-long concert series = free seats! Yay!
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The Elusive “Poncho Man.” I’m told he does amazing things with his hands while dancing, but this is as close as I got.
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This guy. This gal.
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And the grand finale – The Latelys. Phenomenal.

And now I’m back in New Jersey.

Sort of.

I may have just signed a year-long lease on an apartment in a city 3,000 miles away that I’ve never been to.

Duluth tarot cards May 2019 Go Jules Go
The Duluth cards told me to.

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Blogging, Blonde Moments, Booze, humor, Just For Fun

Caption This: Birthday Edition

Hi there! …What’s that? Why are my eyes so bloodshot? I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m fully committed to the fine art of weekly blogging. I definitely planned ahead for this one. It’s gonna be a good one. Hoo boy.

…Are you ready? Today’s post is called, “Caption This!” I came up with it all on my own. Here’s how it works. …Are you sure you’re ready?

Okay.

I’m gonna post a bunch of pictures that may or may not be from last night’s 37th 25th birthday celebration -and- (oh my God this is so exciting) YOU GET TO CAPTION THE PHOTOS YOURSELF.

I know. The things I do for you.

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I love you.

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