Tag Archive | Virginia

Progress Report

A year ago today, I took the first big step in starting my life over. At 9AM last year, I boarded a Virgin America flight from Orange County bound for Washington, D.C. I had 10 boxes in tow – 1o boxes that held most of what I hold dear.

I was leaving the life that I had spent 7 years building, a relationship that I had been in for nearly 6 years, and the dog that I had raised for 5 years. I cried most of the flight. I have never been filled with so much uncertainty and heartache as I was on that day. Despite this, I knew that leaving was the best thing I could do for myself.

Staying in a relationship where I was miserable and stressed to the point of physical illness would have been lunacy. I gave new meaning to loving someone until it kills you. Make no mistake, I loved Rob. However, sometimes love isn’t enough… especially when someone doesn’t love you nearly as much in return.

So, I ended a marriage that wasn’t working and had no hope of surviving. I received a second chance and a new lease on life that many people never get.

I could not have done it without my support system.

I have an amazing family – both immediate and extended. My immediate family drives me crazy sometimes, but I know that when I need them they’re there. I would not have even considered leaving Rob if my parents hadn’t generously invited me to move back home. Both of my siblings Cathee and Nate stepped up and assisted me at crucial moments. My grandma has been my cheerleader and source of consolation. In addition, I have a multitude of Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins that have been there for me in ways that I hope to repay someday.

I have a plethora of friends who rallied to support me. My best friend Cicely counseled me and drove with me cross-country. My other dear friend Neleh helped me transition back to Virginia and threatened to remove me from my folks’ home lest I keep hiding in my bedroom. Of course, I had countless other friends who offered advice and stories of encouragement. The most amazing part is that I have not met many of these friends in person. Many are people who I chat with on Twitter or are blog friends. In essence, they were total strangers.

Where am I a year later?

I’m healthier than I’ve been in years. As I have exclaimed all over this blog, I am now a runner.

This hasn’t been the easiest year. There have been a few setbacks. I’m not entirely where I want to be, but there has been progress. Even a little progress is better than where I was before.

I took a hiatus from The Paper Stylist to focus on the rest of my design and photography work. This has given me the opportunity to restructure and evaluate what I want to do. I have been able to expand my portfolio. I’m excited about the projects I have on the Horizon.

Just when I thought I would hate living in Virginia, I had two fortuitous breaks. One is that I started contributing as a photographer and writer for AltDaily.com. While working with them, I’ve become very involved with my community and discovered there is much more to love about this part of Virginia. The other thing is I made local friends courtesy of Twitter. I’ve been to more birthday parties and “just because” gatherings than I can even count. These folks have made my life here more than tolerable, it’s been downright enjoyable.

Traveling has once again become a hobby of mine. I have been making up for lost time. I have flown and driven many miles to visit new destinations. While I haven’t gotten any new stamps in my passport, I have seen so much of this beautiful country.

In the state that I was in a year ago, I had sworn off men and relationships. For 6 months, I hid at home. Then, I re-entered the dating arena. It was hilarious and disastrous. I was ready to swear off dating when I met someone who I ended up liking a lot. Yes, D, I’m talking about you. We went on a few dates. Somehow, a few dates turned into several. Several dates morphed into spending lots of time together. Now, we’ve been “together” for a few months. I like where we’re at and that’s all I’m going to say about it. 😉

My life is immeasurably better than it was a year ago. It’s nothing like I thought it would be and I like it.

You can start over again. Life really isn’t over until you’re dead.


Myles Report – 1 Year

September 29, 2010


Myles at 3 weeks - The photo that started it all


I’ve only had Myles for 9 months and it has been quite a ride. He is unbelievably friendly. He love kids, older people, other dogs. There other times where he is feisty little monster. There are moments where I ask myself what I was thinking choosing a small terrier. Alas, I still love him. This crazy little dog definitely belongs with me… we’re equally quirky.

Myles had his 1st Birthday on September 29th. Before anyone jumps to conclusion, we didn’t have a party for him. There was no cake. Nada. I’m a bad dog momma, I know. We did go to the Pet Store and I did buy him a few things.

Let me recap what’s new in my über popular pup’s life.

I finally did the responsible dog owner thing and had Myles neutered. I wasn’t intentionally putting it off. I simply forgot to schedule it.


Time to get "fixed" - to the Vet and Back


He wore the “cone of shame” (Up movie reference) for 2 weeks. He was NOT happy about that.

We made the best of the summer. He went for rides in the car.


Myles loves riding in my pops' truck more than anything


He even had a few icy treats.



Dog treat from Rita's Italian Water Ice


He got to spend a weekend with his “girlfriends”, my friend Neleh’s pups Adobi and Pixel. Being at home with me was quite a letdown for my little Cassanova.



Myles misses Adobi & Pixel


Apparently, Myles would like to tweet and blog for himself.



Myles is a computer geek.


I’m trying desperately to train Myles to run with me, but I’m having a terrible go of it. He loves the runs initially.  However, once we go longer than a certain distance, he doesn’t want to cooperate. He will try to run back and forth in front of me to trip me or slow me down. It’s nuts. This dog is too smart sometimes. I have to drag him or pick up. I’ll try for a little longer, but I may just have to accept that Myles is a walker, not a runner.



Myles on the move


That’s it. That’s what’s new in a nutshell.

1st Half Marathon

September 4-5, 2010

My mad dash to the airport had put in me in a tough predicament. I arrived home in Virginia a mere 20 hours before the Rock N Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. I barely slept on my flight. I couldn’t get comfortable. I had the dreaded middle seat. My whole body was sore from running and dragging my wheeled carry-on through the city. I was emotionally exhausted from the week’s proceedings.

After picking up my bags, I headed directly to the Race Expo. I picked up my race packet which included my race number. Once had I had that, the nerves really set in. I barely noticed anything else at the Expo. I was just cognizant enough to buy a souvenir t-shirt. The rest is a blur. At lunch afterwards, I didn’t fully enjoy my sushi, which I love, because I was so distracted.

I finally got home and attempted to nap. My nap was thwarted by my very busy household. I was so short on sleep that it was almost criminal. I tried to unpack and get my race gear together. Instead of carb-loading, I had a light dinner of Wendy’s chili and a baked potato. I went to bed early. Despite only having had about 3 hours of sleep the night before, the sandman did not appear. I tossed and turned for hours before finally falling asleep.

I had trained all summer for this, but you can’t train for emotional exhaustion, jetlag and sleep-deprivation. This was shaping up to be my worst case scenario.

I was up bright and early and began tweeting my experience. Here are my tweets with additional photos and commentary.

It was a unseasonably mild day. Temps in the 70s with low humidity.  Perfect day for a Half Marathon.

I was in Corral 23 which had me starting 36 minutes after the official start of the race. That gave me 36 whole minutes to really get worked up in a nervous frenzy. I felt like crap from the start. I was sore and tired, but I was determined to run. I knew I would finish even if it meant it would take an eternity.

I was in a very slow Corral. There were a lot of walkers in my group. What was most irritating to me was not only were some people walking they were holding hands and forming chains 4 people across. I’m all for support and solidarity, but geez it was still early. Leave some room for the rest of us to pass. I burned a lot of energy early on just passing people.

During my training, I found that it takes me at least 3 miles to settle in and get a comfortable pace. I wasn’t surprised early in the race when I couldn’t quite get into a decent pace and rhythm.

At Mile 4, I really felt terrible and I was panicked. My asthma was bothering me. I was hyperventilating. My legs already felt like rubber. I still had another 9.1 miles. I was in trouble. I had a Gu Energy Gel and tried to focus on the music playing on my iPod.

Miles 4-9 went through Camp Pendelton. That stretch felt endless because the course wound around a bit. There was plenty of bands and cheerleaders along the way which helped significantly.

By Mile 7, I was really questioning my sanity. All I could think of was this shirt that I almost bought that said “This seemed like a good idea a few months ago.” I was so exhausted that I spelled Half Marathon wrong in my hashtag.

My tweet that said “struggling” was a gross understatement. I was at a point where I was really questioning whether or not I would finish. My asthma was really bothering me and I was using my inhaler almost every 0.25 mile. What saved me was all the support I received from friends. I received several text messages, facebook comments and tweets. All the communication nearly killed my iPhone battery, but saved my morale. The positive words and thoughts buoyed me onward.

Mile 10 put back towards the beach where I knew the finish line was close by. Only 3.1 miles left to go. I dug into the last of my reserves and picked up my pace.

As is my luck, my mom and sister kept calling while I was trying to sprint the last 0.5 mile to the finish line. I don’t think I’ve ever been that rude to my mom, but that was one time that I REALLY couldn’t talk.

I crossed the finish line at 10:33 AM with a total time of 2 hours 56 minutes 44 seconds. It was not the goal time I had in mind. With everything that transpired prior to the race, I was grateful to have finished.

I was euphoric and fatigued. I had finished my first Half Marathon. Even though I felt terrible throughout, I’m certain there will be many more Half Marathons to come. 🙂

Where did summer go?

photo by Darius Daniel

I admit it. I’m a terrible blogger. I go through short phases where I write with exciting frequency which are then followed by droughts of silence. I can’t help it. Sometimes I disappear because I am so emotionally spent that I don’t have it in me to share my experiences. Other times I don’t write because frankly it’s a lot of work. I treat each blog post like a magazine editorial complete with perfectly retouched photos. Lastly, another reason why I don’t write is because I’m just too damn busy living my life. {Cue “Live Your Life” by T.I. & Rhianna… LOL} This has been the case as of late.

This summer has been the busiest summer I’ve experienced in years. There was no way that I could keep up with the blog posting. The best that I could do is post photos to Facebook and let me friends decipher my goings-on.

So what have I been up to?

There have been birthdays to celebrate.

Grandma’s 103rd Birthday

Auntie Fely, my sis Cathee, Me, Mom, and Grandma

The Birthday girl - can you believe she's 103?

Jacqui’s Birthday – Lady Gaga-themed Party

Jacqui The Birthday Girl and her main man Dan

the Birthday girl and me

I’ve seen A LOT of live music. Here are some of the shows I’ve seen.

Passion Pit at the NorVa

Rogue Wave at the NorVa

Interpol at the NorVa

Interpol at the NorVa

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun at HK on the Bay - photo by Darius Daniel

Vinyl Headlights at Backstage

Public Enemy at the NorVa

There are more shows that I’ve seen, but didn’t get around to photographing.  A good portion of what I’ve seen are local bands. You gotta support your hometown music. After all, they gotta start somewhere.

It’s also be a summer filled with art.

Chalking of Ghent

My sis Cathee and my nephews Ethan & Franky

Art Everywhere Closing

National Gallery of Art – Washington, D.C.

My bro Nate hanging out at the National Gallery of Art


photo by Nate Kabaitan

Lollipops and 45s – Phoebus Gallery

Last Tuesdays at 45 degrees Lounge – photography by Neleh Sawsiengmongkol

Style.With.Pull – Phoebus Gallery

I entertained some houseguests.

My cousin Jovan

My best friend Cicely

I did A LOT of eating and running, but I’ll save that for their very own posts.

With all these activities, can you understand why I haven’t posted?

My First 10K

Lucky Numbers - iPhone pic

I wanted to do something BIG this year for my birthday. Because I’ve fallen in love with running, I wanted to do a race on my birthday. I had already done a 5K and wanted to challenge myself. 10K races seemed like the next step. I googled 10K races in my area. The first one that came up in my search was the Xterra Fugitive 10K in Richmond. I signed up with minimal hesitation.

Once I told my runner friends what I had done, they were all a bit stunned. Some even admitted that they wouldn’t do an Xterra race. Even my really supportive friends looked at me like I was crazy when I said that I was going to do the Xterra 10K Trail Run. {gulp} What had I done?

In the 2 weeks leading up to the race, I becoming increasingly more anxious. I forced myself to run in terrible conditions – hot, humid, and/or rolling hills.

The day before the race. I was jittery ball of nerves. I got my race clothes together and headed out-of-town.

I was up at 5:15AM. By 5:45, I was on my way to the race. The nerves and anxiety were getting the best of me. I have no idea why. It wasn’t as though I was trying to finish within a specific time. My goal for this race was simply to finish. Yet because I’m such a high-strung individual, I was worked up in a frenzy… in my head.

Runners warming up

Brian and Darius warming up

I picked up my race packet and pinned my bib number on. The temperature wasn’t too bad. It was approximately 74º with 80% humidity. {I love how I now think 80% humidity is ok. Hello, VA} The starting gun was fired and we were off.

If you look really carefully, you can find me - Xterra Fugitive 10K start - photo courtesy of Xterra

I was off to a really slow start. Just my luck, none of my tracking gadgets would work. The Nike+ on my iPod nano wouldn’t work and the Runkeeper app on my iPhone wouldn’t start. What the eff?! I was pissed, but what could I do? The course started out on pavement and along streets. It wasn’t until about 1 mile into the race that I got my Nike+ to work. Unfortunately, my sensor still seemed to be reading incorrectly. My sense of pace and distance was completely thrown off. It was a great course. I loved the variety of surfaces. It reminded me of the run/walks I used to do with Dottie in the Arroyo Seco.

iPhone pic by Darius Daniel

iPhone by Darius Daniel

As much as I enjoyed it, there were moments were the race felt endless. I had no sense of distance or location which was disorienting. It didn’t help that I was in the VERY back of the pack and could only see 3 other runners. All I could do is keep following the signs marked along the trail. It wasn’t until the last water stop that I discovered I only had 1.5 miles left. I was so relieved when I heard that. Of course, I hit a tough portion of the course – dry river bed. Being short, made scrambling across some of the rocks a touch more difficult for me. {read: agonizing}

iPhone by Darius Daniel

When I got to the final 0.5 mile straightaway, I pushed myself as much as I could. It felt like the longest 0.5 mile of my life. Once I saw the finish line,  I couldn’t believe I had done. Although, I was a bit crestfallen when I saw the clock reading 1 hour 24 minutes. Even though I had only plan to finish, I secretly hoped I complete the course with a slightly better time than that. What can I say? I’m hard on myself like that. The disappointment was short-lived because the euphoric runner’s high and excitement took over.

Finish Line

Sweaty and hot, but ecstatic - photo by Darius Daniel

I was sweaty and out-of-breath, but ecstatic that I finished a 10K Trail Run. A year ago I could barely run a mile without wanting to collapse. The thought of doing a 10K trail run would never have crossed my mind. This year, I couldn’t think of a better way to start off my birthday festivities. {More on the rest of those festivities later}

Thanks to everyone for being so supportive. Again, the well wishes made all the difference. With everyone behind me, failure was never an option 🙂

Becoming a local again

I’d be lying if I said that when I initially considered the prospect of moving back to Virginia Beach I dreaded it. All I could think about was how small the area felt and how suburban life would suffocate me. It sounds dramatic, but that’s how I felt when I left Virginia for Los Angeles. I was so disappointed about moving home that I spent months hiding out and sulking. After being forced coerced to join the rest of the world, I realized that I could either whine about being home or make the best of it. Keep in mind, I have in my DNA the ability to be a champion whiner. However, I decided that it would be more beneficial and fun to make the best of my situation.

I’m on a mission to rediscover this area and its charms. This means attending festivals and frequenting local restaurants and bars. I’m trying to see this area with a fresh perspective. It helps that I have a few new local friends {Waves “hi” to Michelle, Nay, Darius, Charley F., Ron, Jacqui, James, Jini, and Matt} and some old friends {Waves “hi” to Neleh, Jay Mc, Rosie, Jen S., Kipp, Jodi, and Brandon}. These folks have kept me company on my exploits. Luckily for me, as the temperature rises, the more events there are. And the more I go out, the more I realize that perhaps being back home isn’t as bad as I originally thought.

Here are a few photos from the first of many local events.

May 1, 2010
Art | Everywhere Opening

From the Art | Everywhere website:

For eight remarkable weeks, empty storefront windows along Granby Street in Downtown Norfolk will be transformed by art. The corridor will be one monumental gallery. The windows and facades of vacant properties will be the walls.

Imagine a Granby Street with no empty store windows, with no boarded-up buildings, but instead a series of large-canvas public art projects that garner national attention. Imagine a Downtown Norfolk celebrated for its color, vibrancy, energy, and support of the arts.

May 9, 2010
3rd Annual AT&T Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival

From the Spring Wine Festival website:
.. the Elizabeth River …a blissful afternoon in early May… sipping and swirling a glass of Virginia Wine! It’s the only way to celebrate spring and close the door on winter! The Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, features over 20 premier Virginia wineries, gourmet foods, specialty wares for purchase, and incredible music to complement the perfect spring afternoon. All wines presented during the festival are available for purchase by the bottle or the case throughout the day.

At Journey’s End

February 22-23, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 5 & 6

Our spirits were high, but being on the road was taking its toll. Exhaustion was causing us to hit the road later and later. Day 4 had us waking up at around 11AM.  Our hostess Jennifer was very gracious and made us breakfast despite recovering from surgery. After brunch, we said “goodbye” to Jennifer and moseyed on.

Cicely and Jennifer

Since we missed our last two cupcake stops, we were determined to go to a cupcake bakery while in Atlanta. We surmised that there had to be several bakeries to choose from. This time, we made sure to do our research first. Our search brought us to Sweet Pockets Cupcakes.

Sweet Pockets Cupcakes
4338 Paces Ferry Road,
Atlanta, GA  30339


photo by Cicely

The cupcakes were delightful. Although, I was relieved that they had mini cupcakes. I don’t think my body could handle the sugar overload of the last couple of days. Fueled by an enormous sugar rush, we set out for Cicely’s mom’s house in North Carolina. We had barely gotten out of Atlanta when we got sidetracked {read:seduced} by another outlet mall. Don’t ask my why they are so alluring. I can only say that I am enthralled by ridiculous discounts.

After our latest shopping frenzy, we were starved. Cicely gleefully suggested we go to Krystal Burger. I had never had Krystal burgers before. As a Burger Aficionada, I enjoyed them.

With all of our stops, we arrived in North Carolina at an almost ungodly hour. I was so excited to see Cicely’s mom Evelyn. I hadn’t seen her since Cicely’s nuptials, which was 5 years ago. Evelyn has a way about her that makes you feel as though you’re instantly family. She also has a wicked sense of humor. In the same breath, she welcomed and admonished us for arriving so late. At least, we were armed with a peace-offering. We picked up some barbecue from one of her favorite restaurants.

We all stayed up late and chatted all night. It was hard to believe, but the Cupcake Tour was over. Cicely was headed back to Texas from here and I had the last leg of the trip to drive on my own. After spending days in the car and numerous snafus, our friendship was intact, if not better for having taken the trip together. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have survived such an emotional trip without Cicely’s help.

After some brief goodbyes and a few more photo ops, I headed on to Virginia.  It was a mere 4.5 hour drive, but it felt like the longest leg of the trip. I was on my own and left to contemplate what had transpired and what was to come next. It was overwhelming. I’m not ashamed to admit that when the enormity of it all hit me I cried. Just when I thought I was going to cry myself dry, I had arrived at my destination.  After 6 days, 10 states, and 3,050 miles, I was back in Virginia. Leaving L.A. was the closing of a major chapter of my life and this trip was the perfect way to close it. It had been an exciting, hilarious, and cathartic trip.  In short, it was the trip of a lifetime.

iPhone picture