Category: Life.

Still Trying to Make Sense of it All

I started writing this post on Thursday, the day everything happened. Every time I come back to finish it, I realize that it feels like something’s missing. There’s so much I want to say, but don’t know how to articulate. I don’t think this event can be neatly wrapped up and maybe that’s why this post never feels finished to me. Regardless of what I write, it’ll never be enough. So I think I’m going to just post what I’ve written and accept that my feelings can’t be fully expressed in words and this event isn’t something that can be easily set aside.

But first, here is a fundraising page for the student who was critically injured during the shooting. He was shot three times and is still in the ICU. He’s been paralyzed from the waist down.

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* * *

I don’t know what to say. The unimaginable happened in Tallahassee the other day. I woke up to a flurry of text messages. The first one I saw was from a friend saying that the university had cancelled classes. I didn’t understand. I thought it must have been a prank. Why would the university cancel classes on a regular old Thursday? The weather outside was calm and cool, it just didn’t make any sense. The next texts I saw were FSU Alert texts. I saw them in reverse order. The ALL CLEAR text and the one before it — DANGEROUS SITUATION: Seek Shelter. I still didn’t understand. I grabbed my computer and saw Facebook flooded with posts about a shooting that happened at Strozier library. Three injured. The shooter dead. Hundreds of students at the library when it happened.

I was so disoriented, shocked, and saddened by this news. I had no words to process how this might have happened on my campus. The campus that I’ve called home. The campus where I’ve spent eight years of my adult life. The library that I visit frequently and spent many late nights when I was an undergrad.

The minimal amount of information available as first only led to more and more questions. Why? Why Florida State? Why Strozier? Why in the middle of the night? And the what ifs? What if my students were there? They had performance projects due on Thursday. They often use the library as a place to rehearse. What if they were doing last minute rehearsals? What if this had happened in a different building when I was teaching? What would I have done?

Days later and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. You think it’ll never happen to you or your campus; until it does. I feel like my home is no longer safe. I feel violated.

While I don’t want to diminish the impact that any on-campus shooting might have on the FSU community, this event didn’t happen in some far off corner of campus where only a few people go. It happened in the heart of campus, in a building that everyone uses. Strozier library faces Landis green a beautiful green lawn that serves as a communal spot where students sunbathe, study, bring their puppies, play football or frisbee. On the other side of Landis green is Landis dorm, which is actually part of a whole row of dorms including the dorm I lived in freshman year. Right next to Strozier is the Bellamy building where many of my non-theatre grad student friends have offices. But more than that, Strozier isn’t a library, it’s everyone’s home. People go there to study, to check out books, to have meetings, to get coffee at the 24-hour Starbucks. It’s Club Stroz, a central part of the FSU campus.

I’m thankful that the situation could have been much, much worse and only three students were injured, but should I even be thankful of that? Three students injured is still three too many. There were about 400-500 students in the library when Myron May entered the library. I’m thankful that FSU responded to the event so quickly. They came minutes after the first call went through. I’m thankful that none of my friends or students were involved. I’m also thankful for how the FSU community came together in the days after to show thanks to the FSUPD, the Tallahassee Police Department, and to comfort one another.

But even today, five days later, I don’t know what to say or how I’m supposed to feel. Should I be more upset? Should I move on and go about my business? As a community how do we move past this? It feels too easy to just pretend it never happened and return to life as usual. As a friend pointed out, by Friday the media had already moved on to the next big story but I for one, was still trying to process everything.

And now I’m out of words to articulate my feelings, so I’ll just end by showing some pictures that really hit home. I think seeing the books with bullet holes, the abandoned stuff in the lobby, and the doors boarded up were what made the whole thing real to me. Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.39.51 AM

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29 Pounds by 30!

One of my bigger goals for #Project29 involves losing 29 pounds by the end of July 2015. Although I do want to lose the weight, I know that ultimately weight is just a number. I’m more interested in the larger picture. I want to be healthy inside and out as I enter into my 30s. I want healthy eating practices to be so ingrained into my life that I don’t need to think twice about them.

Beyond that, in the future I want to practice (what I assume) I preaching to any future kids of mine. It’s so easy to turn to processed food or fast food, but I know that eating fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods makes me feel better and it’s what I will want for my kids.

I know that from here on out losing weight is only going to get harder and harder, so getting to a happy weight where my body functions at a maximum is key. Maintaining my weight in it’s happy place is the biggest thing I can do to keep my hormones and body chemistry in check, which is an issue I’ve struggled with since my teens.


When I was in Washington I went vegetarian and that decision has really helped me to be very conscious of what I’m eating. I’m constantly looking at my meals to make sure they’re balanced and most importantly that I’m getting enough protein. I genuinely love fruits and vegetables, so those are always a big staple of my diet. My downfall tends to be sugar. I have a serious sugar addiction and I tend to turn to sugar when I’m stressed, which is a constant state of operation in grad school. I’ve heard stories about people who gain weight during their comps or dissertation writing and I am proactively working to do the opposite. While the sugar or diet coke taste good in the moment, ultimately they make me feel like crap.


In an effort to help myself lose the weight, I’ve decided to (re)join Weight Watchers. Following the Weight Watchers program helps me to be ever more vigilant of my daily food choices. I have to track all of my meals and snacks, so it helps stop me from mindlessly eating. It’s also a reality check when I eat out. The other day I grabbed a multigrain bagel from Dunkin Donuts. I’d run out of the house and knew I should eat breakfast. I thought I was making a smart choice, but in reality that bagel and cream cheese was about a 1/3 of my daily points allowance.

As opposed to tracking calories, Weight Watchers uses points as a way of tracking food intake. Each point is figured out by looking at the fat grams, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. I think it’s a more well-rounded way of looking at a food’s nutritional value. Also in Weight Watchers, fruits and vegetables are considered zero points. So when my sugar craving hits, it encourages me to each for a banana or an apple and skip the ice cream. I know that a four point ice cream isn’t going to satisfy me and more likely it’s only going to perpetuate the sugar craving.

Another big motivation for doing WW is that being more vigilant about portions is important for me. It helps me really evaluate whether I need as much food as I might typically lay out for myself. It forces me to really stop and think about how hungry I am and to listen to my body’s hunger signals.


Finally, based on my mom’s suggestion, I’ve decided to set some rewards for myself as I make certain goals for the weight loss. I’m hoping that this will motivate me to stay on track with my efforts. It’s so easy to get discouraged after a minimal loss or even a gain. It’s also easy to let one day snowball into a week of bad days or even just give up. I know that this is more about the process and the journey, so I’m accepting that this might a very slow process and that’s okay. It took me years to gain the weight, so it’s not going to come off in weeks.

Anyway, the rewards will be for a 5% loss, 10% loss, and then my goal.

When I reach my 5% loss, I’m going to get acrylic nails. I’ve never been one to take good care of my nails, but when I did them for Ashley’s wedding I really liked the way they looked. It also made me feel a bit more put together. So I’m going to try out the acrylic nail thing.

Then at 10% I’m going to get these TOMs.


How perfect are they for #Project29? They say “live your dream,” which I LOVE.

Finally, at goal I am going to try out the Stitch Fix service. It’s an online personal shopper service. I suck at dressing myself and tend to choose the safe options when I go shopping, so having someone pick out clothes that I normally wouldn’t choose for myself might be fun.

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I’m really excited to start this journey and to blog about it.

Recap and Reboot!

What a crazy two years it’s been! I haven’t updated the blog in such a long time and that’s mainly it’s because I’ve been out living life. But I’m about to resume blogging. I’m rebooting the blog because I’ve been brainstorming a project that I want to document on here. I’ll explain it more about the project in a separate post.

Anyway, as always, I’m trying to figure out how to balance life as a grad student and celebrate the last years of my twenties. When I started the PhD program I vowed not to let myself become so wrapped up in school that I put all the other aspects of my life on hold for the duration of grad school. It hasn’t always been easy and I still don’t do the best job of balancing everything, but in general I’m proud that my life feels pretty well-rounded. I continue to be a work in progress. I’ve noticed that the pattern is usually one area becomes the priority as the others slip onto the back burner. It turns out that whatever is on the front burner is constantly changing based on what I need most in my life, whether it be friends, family, school, or mental and physical balance.

Since August 2012 I’ve finished my coursework and I’m in the process of working on my comprehensive exams. Beyond that, here’s an idea of how I’ve been spending the past two years.

There have been many hours spent at Black Dog reading and writing.



There’s been two football seasons, including Florida State winning the National Championship.



Several birthdays including Hilary’s 21st birthday spent in New Orleans on Thanksgiving with the family.





Many trips home and to North Carolina to spend time with the family.





And trips to North Carolina with friends new and old.







Lots of parties and social events!



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and plenty of adventures on planes and sailboats! šŸ™‚









Two major road trips to help a friend and my sister start new lives in other states.


Tallahassee —> Wisconsin






St. Pete —> Salt Lake City







And finally one major loss and one major addition…

Nana died on October 8th 2012.


And this past summer I adopted a rescue dog, Sirius.



And now you’re all caught up. šŸ™‚

First Day of Summer

It’s the first day of summer and I spent most of my day curled up on the couch engrossed in finishing (and being quite the weepy mess) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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This is not what I was supposed to be doing, but with only a few chapters left, I was sucked into the reading till the end. I think the book was even better the second (full) time reading it. I’ve even decided that I really do like Snape. I think JKR is brilliant for making her characters so rich and complex, especially those that we instinctively want to despise like the Malfoy’s and Snape.

Now back to reality and the long list of things I need to do before classes start on the 2nd!

All was well.

Wrestling Ferns

I must have been delusional after my workout today, because right after my painful arms and shoulders set I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up some gardening supplies.

When I was home the other day, my mom sent me home with a huge bag of ferns. Since the bromeliads weren’t doing well in the shady and dry area under my front windows, my mom thought the ferns might be a bit happier. Thus, I made another attempt at landscaping.

After the gym, I went straight to Home Depot where I picked up a new short hose and nozzle for the front.

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Then I came home and spent the afternoon wrestling with ferns.

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Sadly, this is the after picture and you can’t see much improvement. I think it’ll take a bit of time to see if the ferns are happy and will establish themselves in the ground. If they are happy here, I think it could look a lot better than the bromeliads, which I left where they were.

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Between the gym and the gardening, I was tuckered out. The rest of the day was spent on the couch watching FSU in the College World Series and catching up with a long-lost friend.

Goodnight, Moon!

My Own Version of Microblogging

Seeing as how it’s been a month between posts, clearly I’ve been slacking on my blogging routine. As a result, I’ve decided to combine my “Snapshots of Summer” project with my goal of blogging more consistently by microblogging.

This will be the fourth year of my “Snapshots of Summer” project, where I take a picture a day and documenting my summer activities. Although, I traditionally post the pictures in an album on Facebook (and when I get around to it I sometimes make them into a picture book), I’m going to start posting them on the blog with a short caption. When I feel inclined I may expand them into detailed posts, but for now something will be better than nothing.

So for today’s snapshots!

Tonight my group of friends went to play trivia, as per our usual Monday night routine, except tonight we said goodbye to two of our friends. This pair will be leaving Tallahassee to continue their research at two different universities.


In addition to trivia, we played Bingo and ALMOST won blackout. We were close, but no cigar.


The rest of my day, prior to trivia and bingo, was spent camped out at a local coffee shop. I had high hopes of finishing my summer syllabus AND working on research AND doing some fun reading, but I only managed to work on the syllabus. It looks like tomorrow will be spent doing more of the same.


And that’s all the news from Lake Wobegon.

Live With Passion

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – Albus Dumbledore

This was not some rebellious teenage decision. This was not an impulsive move. This was not for all the wrong reasons, but for all the right ones. This was totally out of character. This is the story of the day I got my tattoo.

In reality, this story started about five years, but let’s just jump to last January when I actually resolved to get a tattoo. It was at that point when I finally came up with an idea and placement that held a deep meaning for me. Over spring break, Hilary tried to convince me to do it then, but I started having second thoughts. After a few more months of flip-flopping on ideas, I made the commitment to go through with it this past weekend.

I had already been talking with Michelle about making a trip to Jacksonville, because she’s about to move back to Minnesota and she’d never been to Jacksonville. We decided to make it a beach day–tattoo adventure. The decision to get the tattoo in Jacksonville also meant that it would be somewhat convenient for Hilary to drive up from Gainesville to come watch.

On Saturday morning, Michelle and I woke up and hit the road for Jacksonville. First stop — the Riverside Arts Market.


The market is basically a farmers and artist market that is held weekly under one of Jacksonville’s main bridges. There were TONS of vendors of all kinds and live entertainment. When we arrived, we were amazed at how big the market was! The location was also perfect. The bridge provided shade and the market butted up against the water.

When we made it to the other end of the market we stumbled upon the start of a live concert. I actually sorta knew the band, so we stayed and watched for a while. Live music by the water on a cool Saturday morning is a great way to start our adventure.


After enjoying the concert my tummy started to rumble, so our next stop was Angie’s. It’s been two years since I’ve had a delicious Angie’s sub with peruvian sauce and it was just as good as I remembered.


Post-Angie’s, we hit up the beach. The beach was super crowded, but the weather was great. The breeze kept the temperature at the beach cool and I didn’t even get sunburned. I call that a win!


Hilary met up with us in preparation for tattoo part of our adventure. It was so good to see her. Even though I saw her at the start of April, I really missed her, so I’m glad she could drive up and be part of this experience with me.


Once we were done with beach time, we headed to the tattoo shop.

Funny story: I still had not quite decided how I wanted the tattoo to look or where I wanted to place it by the time we reached the parking lot.


As silly as it seems, the indecisiveness was part of my incentive for getting the tattoo. When it comes to making decisions, whether big or small, I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it, weighing my options, and debating various outcomes before I ever act on anything. So by getting the word “live” tattoo on my ankle, it’s a reminder than I need to spend more time living in the present. Some people need to learn how to think before they act, I need to learn how to act before I over-think.


After settling on a font and design, it was time to make this a reality.

I had quite the motley crew of supporters there to watch this momentous occasion. Michelle came to witness and support me. Hilary was there for the same reasons, as well as to document the whole process. Matt and Tommy also came to watch. Although, I’m pretty sure the guys didn’t think I’d go through with it or that I’d cry, so they only came to see how I’d react.

The tattoo shop came as a recommendation from Matt, who’s been to one of their other locations before and said they have a good reputation. While I can’t say I’ve ever been in another tattoo shop before, I was very impressed by the cleanliness of the shop.


I told the guy what I wanted and he drew up a sketch accordingly. Then I gave my seal of approval and he told me to go over to the table.

He cleaned the area and put a carbon copy-like version onto my ankle.


Looks good! Now let’s get this over with!


I’d say the actual tattoo process felt like a sharp, slightly painful tickling. It wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but it really wasn’t all that bad.




About 10 or so minutes later, the tattoo was finished!


Voila! Success!


I really liked Angelo, the tattoo artist. He was really friendly and very patient when it came to dealing with our ridiculous group. Hilary even asked him to pose for a picture with me.


A group shot post-tattoo, minus Michelle, who was taking the picture.


So, what does the tattoo mean to me?

As I mentioned above, it’s a reminder to myself to live in the moment. There were lots of phrases and quotes that I really liked, but I couldn’t commit to just or or I didn’t want the whole thing written on my body, so I decided just to go with the simple word “live.”

Then, as I was deciding the design I realized that just the one word looked unfinished. I ended up adding the three stars at the end as a subtle homage to Harry Potter.
Side Note: In the American Harry Potter books, chapter titles are surrounded by three stars on either side and I loved the way they looked.

Finally, I wanted the tattoo to be somewhere that I could see it and since my feet allow me to run and go on adventures, the foot/ankle seemed like the right place to put “live.”


So there you have it — the story of my tattoo.

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I am here to live out loud.

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.

Live in the moment.

Live for today.

Live fearlessly.

Live with passion.

The PhD Balancing Act: One Year Down!

Papers, assignments, and coursework complete — Check!
Pass end of the year reviews — Check!
Grading and grades complete for teaching — Check!
Pass my own classes with a 4.0 — Check!

First year as a PhD student — CHECK!


It’s hard to believe that I’m already a year into my PhD program and I’ve been back in Tallahassee again for nearly a full year.

This past school year flew by in a whirlwind of school work, social activities, and lots of shenanigans, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I feel more satisfied and comfortable with my life here, than during either of my two years in Washington.


As the year wrapped up, some of the first year student were talking about whether or not our experiences this past year lived up to our initial exceptions and I can safely said my life here is exactly as I imagined and hoped. Sure, there were moments when I was stressed out and frazzled, or other moments when I was frustrated by various people or the system, but overall there have been no curve-balls, only serendipitous moments.

Looking back on the Letter to a Future PhD Student, that I wrote in August prior to school starting, I’d say that everything I wrote about and the emotions that I anticipated were spot-on. I certainly experienced many, many instances of feeling “stupid” or “not getting it,” and yet I persevered. I even had a moment recently where I felt frustrated because I couldn’t see the progress that I’d made this year. But then as I worked on a paper for one of my classes, I used a theoretical lens to support my own analysis and I realized I’ve actually come a long way since last August.


Overall, this year has been quite the PhD balancing act. Sometimes I succeeded in balancing all the different facets of my life and other times I failed miserably, but just as grad school is about the process not the product, so is life.


One of my major successes involved taking my own advice and creating a network of friends, both so I could reached out for help when I needed it and as a means of social interaction.



Sometimes I get the feeling that making friends and having fun isn’t always viewed in a favorable light in academia, but after my MA and two years in Washington I knew that in order to keep myself in a balanced and happy place, I need to get away from school and enjoy life every so often.


Then on the flip side, one of my failures for this past year was my lack of a regular exercise routine. Despite running two half marathons, I never quite established a schedule for my running and strength training goals and as a result they were sidelined.


Therefore, this summer and next year, I am going to focus more on incorporating fitness into my life.

After my first semester, I made a list of goals for spring semester, which included avoiding procrastination, being more social, and finding a roommate. For the most part, I managed to accomplish all of the tasks that I set out for myself.

While I aimed to be more social, in reality I think what I really wanted was to make some real friendships. In hindsight, I was social during fall semester, spring semester I ended up making real friends.


But you know the problem with making friends in grad school? They end up leaving eventually.


For the past few weeks, it’s been an endless stream of farewell dinners, goodbye lunches, end-of-the-semester trivia nights, and “we survived our first year” parties.



Although I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made this year (or those who only left for the summer), I am really looking forward to next year. Instead of starting over, I already have an established group of awesome friends. And while I know that school won’t necessarily be “easier,” I at least have a pretty good idea of how to handle the chaos that is the PhD balancing act.

Recent Posts:
It’s Just a Jump to the Left and a Step to the Right — My road trip with friends to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at American Stage in the Park.
Weekend Forecast: Torrential Downpour and a Wicked Good Time — The story of Meatfest 2012.

It’s Just a Jump to the Left and a Step to the Right

Continuing the idea of how much I love traditions, growing up one of my favorite activities was attending Shakespeare in the Park by American Stage.

Every year they put on a Shakespeare play in Demen’s Landing park. Patrons were encouraged to come two hours before the show and bring a picnic dinner. My family would go with a group of my mom’s friends and we’d make it a big potluck. I have fond memories of attending as a little kid and then when I got older, I carried on the tradition with my high school friends.


In 2009, I was lucky enough to get a chance to work on the Park show. By this point, the company had switched from doing Shakespeare plays to musicals, but the fun atmosphere was still alive and well.   


Working the Park show remains to be one of my favorite experiences from the theatre. The friendships I made during those 10ish weeks showed me a whole new side of St. Pete and I loved working on an event that I’d grown up attending.


When I left for Washington, I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to see the park show. But now that I’m back in Florida, I made it a point to get a group together to go see Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Park.

By some miracle everyone’s schedules aligned during finals week and five of us were able to road trip down to St. Pete. Our plan was to arrive around lunch time and then spend the afternoon exploring downtown before the show.

First stop: Moon Under Water for lunch.


Then we walked down Bayshore and went to the Pier.


E saw a pelican and tried to take a picture. We pointed and stared as she did it.



The Pier was pretty rundown and filled with all sorts of weird machines, stories, and knick-knacks.






After the Pier, we met up with S and kept wandering downtown.

This next series of pictures are recreations of other pictures and I find them particularly amusing.




Also, can someone explain this statue to me? We passed it several times and were collectively confused by it each time we passed.


After our explorations, we stopped by a Publix and created a hodge-podge picnic for ourselves and made our way to the park.


We had a lovely picnic and then played card games while we waited for the show to begin.

I also got a chance to say hello to some of my old coworkers and friends. I think this was the first time I’ve actually missed working in the theatre. I wish I would have another chance to work a park show, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.


Anyway, the show was a lot of fun. I’m not super crazy about the Rocky Horror Picture Show in general, but the park setting made the campy nature of the show feel appropriate and fun.

I really enjoyed showing the girls my hometown and one of my favorite activities. I’m hoping there will be more opportunities for road trips to St. Pete in the next few years.

Weekend Forecast: Torrential Downpour and a Wicked Good Time

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for tradition. I tend to resist change and embrace tradition. One of the reasons why I was so drawn to this school and program is because I knew the past grad students were a tight-knit group with various yearly and weekly social activities, like the weekly safety meetings.

So when I found out about the yearly spring Meatfest, which has been happening for more than a decade, I was stoked to experience my first meatfest.

When I told my family and friends that I was going to an event called Meatfest, they laughed.
“Uhh, Meatfest? But you’re a vegetarian. I don’t understand.”

Then I explained that Meatfest wasn’t just a weekend of consuming the most ridiculous themed meat-on-meat creations, but it was also a weekend of camping out in the middle of nowhere. The laugher continued.

It’s okay though, because I had a BLAST at Meatfest.


A few weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, a group of wild and crazy grad students headed out to the middle of nowhere and set up their own camp ground to celebrate the yearly event that is Meatfest.


The first order of business involved pitching tents and setting up the hang out area. Remember how my family and friends laughed at the idea of me camping? Well I’ve only really been camping three times. Twice as a kid in North Carolina and once about six years ago with friends. Each of those instances involved someone else pitching the tent for me (and a camp site with running water, toilets, and electricity near by).

Thankfully S and K were kind enough to give E and I a crash course in how to pitch a tent. We set up our behemoth tent that I dubbed the Harry Potter tent. It’s the red one in the picture above. It had two separate rooms!


After the tents were set up, we created a camp fire area and a cooking/food area.


Meatfest is quite the event and everything was planned out with meticulous detail.


By sundown, we had a fire blazing and food on the grill. The first night was really chill. We ate food, hung out, made s’mores, and relaxed by the campfire.


The next day involved more of the same. For next year, I need to remember to bring a book. I was so panicked about what to bring that I forgot to bring any sort of entertainment for myself and most of Saturday morning/afternoon involved being lazy around the campfire.


Then in the afternoon, we got word that a big band of rainstorms were approaching. We set up a whole system of tarps to cover the campfire area, the walk way between the food and fire and a cover for our latrine.




Then the rain hit. It was your typical Florida rain, which meant it was hard and heavy.


Thankfully, the elaborate Occupy-esque trap trails kept the hang out area dry and we were able to enjoy the afternoon, despite the rain.

Although, I probably should have realized our tents were in trouble when we had to keep “dumping” the accumulating rain from our tarp system.


Once the rain cleared, some of the other people went out to inspect our tents. A bit later, S called out to me and broke the news that my tent had collapsed during the storm. Not only did the tent collapse, but we ended up with about six inches of water inside the tent and most of our stuff soaked.


But not even a flooded tent could put a damper on our weekend and the fun continued for the rest of the afternoon and evening.


When it came time to go to sleep, I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up sleeping. E and I had debated a few different options during the afternoon, but never settled on a plan.

Then the super-awesome K came and told us that she and a few other people had pitched new a tent for us to sleep in. She was able to pitch a new tent in complete darkness and even more amazingly, the tent withstood the second torrential downpour that came in the middle of the night on Saturday.


I did discover two downsides to the weekend: My legs are covered in angry, itchy mosquito bites and I’m craving faux-meat.

All in all, Meatfest was an awesome weekend. So despite the flooded tent, the lack of showers, running water, electricity, and being surrounded by meat all weekend, I can’t wait for next year.