My week in Instagrams: Phoenix edition!

Hi friends! Between travel and the holidays, I’ve fallen a bit behind on these Instagram posts – whoops! So if it’s OK with you (and even if it’s not), today I’m going to catch you all up on my trip to Phoenix, and next week I’ll do a massive photo dump from NYC!

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The main reason for this trip was that my brother and his girlfriend graduated from ASU! It’s been three years since I walked that stage myself, and I was thrilled to discover that giant balloons are still released at the end of the ceremony. We’re a party school after all – and what better reason to party than earning your degree? Congratulations to Steve, Lily and all of the other graduates!

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Last week was also the first time my siblings and I had all been together since last Christmas. What a treat! These two are my very best friends and we always have such a blast when we’re all together.

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After a couple days of family time, I headed to downtown Phoenix to crash on Steve’s couch for a couple nights and revisit my favorite old haunts from college and the years that followed. This waffle and bacon are from my favorite spot, Matt’s Big Breakfast. The wait can be intimidating, but I assure you it is always worth it!

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Martinis at Hanny’s are only $5, and cheaper after midnight. If I thought that was a steal when I was younger, it seems even better now that I routinely pay $15 for cocktails in NYC!

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Ah, the tacos. Most of you know about my obsession, and that every trip to Phoenix (or Dallas!) requires quality Mexican food. Luckily, Courtney and Gabrielle are always up for a foodie adventure (remember when Courtney and I ate our way around NYC?) and treated me to my favorite tacos from Gallo Blanco! Thanks ladies!

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One of the best parts of Phoenix is the sunsets. I captured this one from my brother’s balcony.

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At the end of my trip I spent a weekend lying on my best friend’s couch, watching Christmas movies and cuddling her pug. Best weekend ever. It was the first time I’d met Jak, who I consider my very first nephew.

You can see more pictures of my trip here, and follow me on Instagram here!

Missing things

Today is my not-so-little brother’s twenty-second birthday.

Happy birthday, Steve!

Happy birthday, Steve!

It’s the first time in quite a while that I haven’t been able to celebrate with him in person. He lives in Phoenix, in the same complex where I occupied an apartment until March of this year. For his 19th, 20th and 21st birthdays I was able to treat him to dinner and attend his parties. It was one of the greatest joys of having my brother around, and something I tried not to take for granted.

Today, I’m plugging away in my Manhattan office. Tonight, I’ll be at worship, not dinner. I don’t even know if Steve’s having a party. I popped a gift in the mail last week, a stark contrast to showing up at his door on Oct. 29 in years past. (Which reminds me, Steve- check your mail.)

Although this is the first time in ages I’ve missed Steve’s birthday, not being a part of milestones and holidays is something I’ve gotten used to. As someone who thrives on adventure and consciously chose to work in a field that operates 24/7/365 – it comes with the territory. I knew this from the time I was young, that this lifestyle wasn’t compatible with huge amounts of commitment and family time. It’s one of the biggest sacrifices I make and I struggle with it every time a day like this rolls around.

I haven’t seen my mom on her birthday since 2008, because being in February it always conflicted with classes. I’ve been “home” to Dallas for Christmas exactly once in the last five years. I’ve never returned for Thanksgiving or Easter, although this will be the first year I’ve not had any family (siblings, grandparents, cousins) around for those holidays.

People always ask me how I do it, how I make these choices. How do I justify living so far away from everyone and still spending my money on vacations to Europe and Canada instead of to Dallas and Phoenix? How do I justify talking to my dad for an hour on Father’s Day this year, but my mom for only five minutes on Mother’s Day because I was on vacation in Spain and the bill was astronomical? How do I justify missing my sister’s high school graduation in June, especially knowing I’ll be at my brother’s college graduation in December?

The truth is, I don’t justify these things. Every time I make a decision like this I struggle with it. Life would certainly be easier if I lived in the South or the Southwest, if I didn’t take such delight in exploring the world and could afford to visit family more than once a year. I surround myself with friends on holidays, call family members on their birthdays. My parents are awesome and supportive and happy to open Christmas gifts whenever the family is together – whether it’s in Dallas, in Phoenix, or on Skype, whether it’s on December 25 or December 14 or January 2.

I can’t explain these choices except to say that this life is worth it. Missing things is worth it to live in New York City, to do what I love, to live the life of my dreams. Maybe someday I’ll realistically be able to fit all the pieces together – to be around for milestones and also have my dream life. Maybe priorities will shift and I’ll move back. But for now, for today, I’m wishing Steve a happy birthday from afar and promising to see him in December.

Happy birthday, Steve. Thanks for supporting me always, for responding to “I’m moving clear across the country” with “That’s so cool! Can I have your couch?” and for always explaining sports things that I just do not understand. I hope this is your best year yet.

On going ‘home’

This post brought to you by the common cold which has left me unable to do anything but work and sleep for the past four days.

A few weeks ago, I boarded a plane to Dallas – something I’d done dozens of times in the past. This time felt different.

I'm the furthest thing from a dog person, but I do love Lexi.

I’m the furthest thing from a dog person, but I do love Lexi.

I lived in the suburbs of Dallas from the ages of 12 to 18, and dropped in for extended stays until I graduated from college at 21. Since then, as I’ve taken on full-time jobs and my friends and siblings have moved on, the visits have become shorter, with more time between them. At some point, I stopped referring to these visits as going home and started saying I was going to visit my parents. All of this was natural, and the city felt less and less like home every time a new shopping center was erected or a new highway opened.

This visit, though – this one was distinctly different. For the first time, I was flying out to stay in a house I had never lived in. My parents downsized to a one-story house in the next neighborhood over back in the spring (around the same time I was frantically organizing a cross-country move myself!) I don’t have my own bedroom in this house (though I didn’t in the old house either – by the time they moved, it had long been converted to a home office!) I didn’t know where they kept the spoons for my breakfast cereal or where to find a top sheet for my sister’s bed. I certainly didn’t know the neighbor’s crazy dogs, who don’t seem to sleep.

This was also the first time I’d visited since my parents became empty-nesters! My sister-slash-best friend left for college in August and now my parents only have each other (and Ally’s Doberman-Beagle mix – yes, it’s a real thing). JUST KIDDING. They are living the dream and have booked up every weekend between now and Christmas with vacations and visits from us kids! It was wonderful to spend three days with just the two of them, something that likely hadn’t happened since I was an only child – a stint that ended when I was two-and-a-half. There were no arguments over where to go to dinner (tacos, every night), what to watch on TV (Modern Family marathon) or where to hang out one-on-one (shopping for me and Mom, breakfast-for-dinner at Cracker Barrel for me and Dad).

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Truly the biggest difference between this visit and the previous ones? It was the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in a long time. I wasn’t visiting for a holiday or event, so there was no stress there. I got more sleep than I normally do. And really, although it was an unfamiliar house in a neighborhood I’d only visited once or twice for baby-sitting gigs – it felt like home.

I’ll be back soon with a full photo post from this trip! Hope you’re all having a wonderful week.