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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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.

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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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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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Blogging, humor

Canada: Just Like the States Except Not At All.

Go Jules Go Canada Just Like the States Exept Not At All Title Graphic_17APR19

“Hello. Bonjour,” a baby-faced, tow-haired man greeted, nodding curtly at me.

“Hello,” I answered to indicate that, while I was in fact learning French, I didn’t think ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and ‘My dog is beautiful and intelligent’ would be particularly helpful in this moment.

“Do you have any weapons, firearms, commercial goods?” he asked.

“No,” I replied easily, my hands resting on my steering wheel.

“Alcohol?”

“Yes, a case of wine.”

“I’m saw-ry, how much?”

I gulped. “A case…?”

“How many baw-tles is that?”

“Twelve. Well, eleven. I drank one last night.”

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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, how many of these can I take to Canada, yo?

He raised his eyebrows and looked at the officer in the booth behind him. They began having a hushed conversation. He turned back to me, looking like he was trying not to smile.

“Are you planning to leave them all in Canada?”

“That was the plan,” I said, smiling nervously.

“Why do you have so much wine?”

You don’t get out of this booth much, do you, sir?

“Well, I’m visiting a friend and I thought I should be a good guest and not show up empty-handed… She’s having friends over this weekend to welcome me…”

I wasn’t entirely sure if this was true, but it could be true.

“The first two bottles are free, but you’re going to have to pay a duty charge on the others. You can decide if it’s worth it to keep them. Just pull to the left and go inside.”

$61.90 ($46.30 USD) later, I was back on the road to Nova Scotia, my bubbly safely nestled in my trunk where it belonged. What’s more, my cell service was as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as the border patrol officer (unlike during my most recent adventure…). Things were looking good.

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Really good.

When I hit the small university town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, nestled an hour northwest of Halifax, I easily navigated the two blocks to my AirBnB apartment. As I was about to pull up the steep driveway, I saw a college-aged woman coming down the sidewalk. I paused to let her pass, but instead she knelt down at the corner of the driveway. My gaze followed her reach and I soon realized she was picking up a large branch that was lying in my path. She moved it aside and grinned at me.

It took me a moment to realize that she was not only offering roadside clean-up, but also allowing me, the non-pedestrian, to pass in front of her.

Oh holy cannolis. I am not in Jersey anymore.

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“Why come everyone is smiling, Mom?”

As soon as I unpacked, I checked my phone.

“I can pop over in a little bit to say hi and we can make a plan for tomorrow, if that works!” my most recent text read.

After years of communicating through our blogs and joking-but-not-really about me visiting, I was finally within a few short miles kilometers of one of my oldest bloggy friends, Sandy from Sandy the Social Butterfly. We’d never video chatted or talked on the phone, but I wasn’t worried. Over the years I’d had nothing but sparkly experiences meeting other bloggers in person.

See?

Sandy arrived a few minutes later and immediately gifted me a bottle of her favorite Nova Scotian wine. Her stunning bright blue eyes sparkled and she was dressed to kill. Meanwhile, I was covered in 10+ hours of car funk and not sure if I’d remembered deodorant.

“I didn’t realize you’d be so tall!” she said.

And I’m only in sneakers, I thought. I didn’t miss my heels, which I’d left back in New Jersey, knowing my 3+ weeks in Maine and Canada wouldn’t call for them.

We gabbed enthusiastically before heading a few blocks downtown for a glass of wine, quickly falling into conversation like old friends. The waiter took our photo and made sure we’d promise to tell him if he should take another one.

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“Canadians are so nice it almost makes me uncomfortable,” I confessed to Sandy.

Over the next few days, Sandy showed me around town, took me to wineries, kicked my ass in her boot camp class, arranged a gorgeous hike, and introduced me to her friends. (Too bad they were real bitches.)

Bitches.

P.S. – Even the dogs in Canada are nicer.

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How does it feel when you travel? Do the people start getting nicer…or not?

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Blogging, Lists, Project Management, Veganiness

What it Really Looked Like to “Follow My Heart”

Go Jules Go Title Graphic What It Really Looked Like to Follow My Heart_13MAR2019

One of my favorite sayings goes, “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get.”

I’ve thought of it often as I embark on a totally new, risky, amazing phase of my life: quitting my stable, full-time job, selling all of my stuff, and hitting the road to pursue creative passion projects.

The Vegan Dollar YouTube Channel screenshot
Yay! 13 subscribers! Good thing I quit my job for this!

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve had a friend or two suggest that the opportunities I’ve gotten were available to me only because of my age, location or looks. While I undoubtedly experience white privilege and humbly acknowledge my staggering good looks fortune in being born to a nice, middle class family in New Jersey, I’m always saddened when people see it this way.

Following my heart has taken everything I have, and even some things I don’t have – yet. Getting to the pot of gold at the end of the dream rainbow is sweaty, scary and sometimes bittersweet business. So scary, in fact, that the only way to calm my [project manager] nerves is to discuss it in –oh my god I’m so excited– graphical format.

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Getting a divorce.

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Going to therapy. For two and a half years.

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Going back to (and finishing) grad school.

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Getting dumped. …Twice.

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Experiencing an earth-shaking epiphany and changing my entire lifestyle [to veganism].

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A lot of sweating. So much sweating. Too much, really.

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Setting boundaries and having difficult conversations with people I love.

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Asking for help (accountability partners).

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Letting go of friendships that emptied my tank so I could cultivate ones that make my spirit soar.

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Exploring all things woo-woo without caring what others thought.

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Telling someone how I really felt about them. …And having them not return the feeling.

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Believing I was worthy, and already had, all of the joy and love I’d always wanted.

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Quitting my stable, cushy job to pursue creative passions.

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Moving to a 350 square foot apartment.

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Leaving said apartment and getting rid of [nearly] all my possessions.

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Slashing my spending by 80%.

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Consistently saying yes to things that made me want to hide in a corner – like meeting new people.

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Stopping to question Every. Single. Negative thought and asking, “Is this true or is this a story?”

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Letting go of the belief that anyone else’s opinion of me has anything to do with me.

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As you can see, NONE of these things was easy, or pleasant, or preceded by 100% assuredness. There will never be a “right” time to do something that scares you. But the universe doesn’t care how old or young you are, how over or under qualified. When it sees someone taking risks to follow their heart’s calling, it will take note, and oftentimes instantaneously, step in and give you whatever you need – even when you’re not sure what that is.

So, whaddya say? Are you ready to do what it takes in order to achieve your dreams, even if that includes the “impossible”? Your heart is a badass and (s)he just might require that of you.

(Pssst…you know I can’t resist linking to my latest video!)

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What has following your heart looked like for you? (…Does anyone want to hide under this blanket with me? I brought Wheat Thins and Chao cheese.)

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