Get Your Head Right

When I say the word “future,” what comes to your mind?

A scary, hairy monster that gives you goosebumps and paralyzes you with fear?

Or a peaceful, mountain meadow that fills you with joy, excitement, and happiness?

It’s all in how you decide to approach things.

The right mindset, so to speak.

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The future used to terrify me.

Back in high school, I was distraught with fear when senior year came around and I had to choose a college, choose a major, and basically choose the life I wanted to pursue without anyone telling me what to do or how to do it.

I was a ball of stress. I was so focused on fear, my priorities went down the tube. I lost a lot of weight, gained a lot of anxiety and parted ways with some friends. Once I decided on a school, I eventually just had to take a semester off to re-evaluate my long term goals and rediscover Alexandra.

Taking time to breathe turned out to be the “pause” I needed to jumpstart my life.

That “pause” gave me mental clarity and the tools I needed to cope with my fear of the future. God has a perfect plan for our lives and I just needed to RELAX and trust His timing. After attaining my Bachelor’s in marine biology, the future doesn’t seem so scary.

I have big dreams in both bodybuilding and the marine science field and I don’t plan on half-assing either anytime soon…

Bodybuilding-wise, my long term goal is to compete in Women’s Physique, and in order to do so, I need to put on a lot of size. While I’d love to compete again sooner, I know what has to be done. I’m absolutely LOVING the offseason and learning to maintain balance, consistency, and the daily routine. The stage will always be there, and I don’t want to sacrifice long term goals for short term pleasure. I’m in it for the long run!

Marine biology- wise, I haven’t told many people, but next February, I plan on pursuing my Master’s (and eventually PhD) in Marine Sciences from the University of Otago in New Zealand. Yes, it’s a long way from home, but I’ve always been one for adventure, travel and new experiences, and I’m not afraid to branch out! Aaaaaand the University has an incredible program and an absolutely awesome location for research.

I wish I could go back and tell high school Alexandra that everything turned out just fine. Sometimes, I still get anxious about the future or feel like I should have my life more together, but I quickly slap myself and say, ” You’re in your 20’s, you DON’T have to have your life all planned out. God’s got that all worked out for you. That’s what makes life exciting, enjoyable, and amazing.”

YOU are in control of how you interpret life, the future, and your dreams.

When you decide to make “getting your head right” a priority, everything else just seems to fall in place, and the future no longer has its fear-gripping power.

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, AZ, 2014

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Page, Arizona

September 2014

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The lovely city of Page is a small town located on the southwestern edge of Lake Powell, near the Utah/Arizona state line. It features Glen Canyon and other gorgeous natural wonders.

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As we soon discovered, it’s pretty much the only metropolis for miles–restaurants, stores, boat docks for the lake, hotels, tours.

So, what brings people to this neat town? The gorgeous, off-the-beaten-path, natural gems. Namely Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon–two hidden treasures in the desert landscape where countless photography enthusiasts and national geographic paparazzi flock every year.

On our southwestern road trip last September, I knew we had to make a pit stop in this city to see these iconic landmarks!

First up, Horseshoe Bend!!

Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped portion of the Colorado River just outside of Page. The overlook above the bend is a breathtaking 1000 feet above the River with a sheer cliff face drop.

To get to the landmark, you have to take a little 3/4 mile hike from the parking lot. The hike is easy to follow and pretty self-explanatory, but I’d recommend you pack some sturdy shoes–people in flip flops were struggling in the deep sand.

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Many suggest you go at sunset for the best pictures, but sunrise is optimal as well. We decided to go in the morning to beat crowds and have more time in the afternoon to explore.

The view was outstanding!! The sheer drop to the bottom was steeper than I’d imagined. Dad and I lay on our stomachs and inched our way to the edge to get some neat shots.

We explored the area around the Bend and had fun meeting lizards and posing on rocks like Rafiki from Lion King 😀

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And, to give you an idea of the grandeur, that little person below is me!

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We left about an hour later and picked up iron-on patches from the Glen Canyon visitor center 🙂

Later that day, we’d scheduled a tour with Navajo guides in the popular Upper Antelope Canyon. Signing up for a tour is the only way you can get to the canyon since the roads are off-limits to pedestrians and regular vehicles. They even offer photographer-only tours during midday for a special VIP experience. We opted for the general tour.

There are two parts of the canyon you can explore–the Upper and Lower portions. We’d read online that the Upper was the more popular of the two, and recommended for those only staying a day in Page.

The tour place was just outside of the city and many guests were huddled around when we arrived at about 2pm.

The ride was BUMPY on the sandy terrain and our SUV had all of the warning lights blinking–transmission, oil, overheating, coolant, DING DING DING DANGER! I kept slamming my head on the window and thought for sure we would break down. A crazy 15 minutes later, we arrived at the canyon in one piece. It looked like nothing special from the outside, but man is it deceiving!!

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Other tour groups were already there so people lined up and were herded through the canyon like cattle. The guides explained to us how the canyon formed and even pointed out good places for picture opportunities. The one pictured below is called the “Candlestick”!

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I’ve never been so shutter happy in my life–every angle offered another beautiful perspective of the canyon walls in the light. Pictures just can’t do it justice! It was so fun playing with different modes and shutter speeds with my camera, too.

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We snaked our way through the canyon and came out the other side about 30 minutes later (pictured above).

The trip back through was meant to go quickly with no pictures, so you could just enjoy the canyon and get out of there in time for the next batch of tourists. It was an awesome experience, that’s for sure!

Both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon are MUST-SEE if you make it to the Arizona Utah border. You will be blown away by the beauty and serenity found in every tiny detail! 😀

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DIY Patch Display Pillow

As many of you know, I’m addicted to hiking.

Fresh, crisp mountain air, burning thighs, cool animals and plants, the views…I can’t get enough.

After Half Dome, I started collecting patches from the locations/national parks where I’ve hiked. I guess I’ll just have to return to the places I hiked prior to that, drat 😉

For months, I’d been trying to find a neat way to showcase the patches. I wanted something that could readily remind me of the great memories and keep my love affair with hiking strong since living in North Texas isn’t very scenic…hopefully grad school or a job will take me to a more hiking-friendly location one day haha 😀 I had them hot glued on my hiking backpack for awhile, but they started falling off, and I didn’t want to risk losing them. I would’ve sewn them on, but the patches proved to be impenetrable to a needle. I also considered framing them in a shadowbox, but it just seemed “meh” to me.

Introducing…

The patch pillow!!

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What You’ll Need:

  • Needle and thread (or sewing machine if you’re high-tech like that)
  • Pillow
  • Fabric (unless you like the pillow how it is)
  • Patches
  • Hot glue gun

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Instructions:

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  1. Cut some fabric to fit your pillow and flip it inside out so the seams won’t show.
  2. With a needle and thread, stitch closed 3 of the sides of the fabric, leaving about half of the fourth side open. You could bypass the whole needle and thread aspect if you have a sewing machine.
  3. Flip fabric inside out (so the pattern is on the outside and your stitches are on the inside) and stuff the pillow into the hole you left.
  4. Once pillow is inside the fabric, sew the rest of the fourth side and tie a good knot at the end.
  5. Fire up your hot glue gun and arrange your patches to your heart’s desire!

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The pillow now resides on my bed and each night, I look at the patches, reflecting on the fun memories and hoping to dream of the adventures each patch represents! 🙂

Wanderlust Wednesday: Texas Edition

Texas Explorations

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Some of you know that I was born and raised in the Dallas area and have lived here my entire life.

I’ve grown accustomed to the lack of seasons, the inferno summers, and brown, flat terrain. But there are a lot of positives about this region of the US as well! Gargantuan oak trees that tower over houses and yards, possums that taunt family pets from the tree canopies above, tex-mex food, cicada symphonies that fill the air on summer nights, mockingbird songs that greet each morning.

Yep, Texas is a pretty swell place.

So, I thought this Wanderlust Wednesday could feature my home state and some of the neat things it has to offer. Because sometimes, it’s fun to be a tourist in your own backyard! 😀 These are just a few of the towns I’ve been to in this state. It’s truly a unique one! The varying terrain and overall distance makes it feel like multiple states when you’re driving it, though!

Arlington: Screams and laughs at Six Flags Over Texas, cracking peanuts and catching fouls at Rangers baseball games, and now home to “Jerry World” where the Cowboys play. (For the record, I loathe the Cowboys…sorry).

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Austin: Home of the state capital, the University of Texas, and unique “Keep Austin Weird” attitude.

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Corpus Christi: Exploring the inner workings of the USS Lexington, stuffing yourself on fresh seafood, shopping in giant sandcastle gift shops, and exploring the Texas State Aquarium! It’s also home to the Island University: Texas A&M Corpus Christi— my awesome alma mater! 😀

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Dallas: SO much to do and see! The exhilarating menagerie at the zoo, country music concerts at the American Airlines Center (the reason I’m standing next to Keith Urban is because I won a drawing to meet him backstage! BEST DAY EVER), funky fish and pugnacious penguins at the aquarium, art museums, symphonies, huge farmer’s markets, and even the chance to have a fancy dinner in the rotating Reunion Tower overlooking the city (I never have but I hear it’s cool!).

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Fort Worth: Another zoo filled with lions, zebras and other magical creatures, cattle and horses clippity clopping down the brick roads at the stockyards, and the famous honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas!

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Galveston: Even though the waters aren’t crystal clear, there’s still a lot of fun to be had at the beach. Feeding seagulls Wendy’s French fries, shell hunting and meeting new crab friends, and gift shops galore. It’s also not far from Houston where you can check out the rodeo, NASA, and a lot of other attractions!

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Plano: Ogling at the colorful balloons at the yearly balloon festival and satisfying your wilderness bug at the Arbor Hills hiking/nature preserve.

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So come on down to Texas, y’all! You won’t regret it! 😀

 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood, Alaska

Winner Creek Trail

Girdwood, Alaska

June 2014

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For my college graduation gift, my family and I traveled to the last frontier…Alaska! Words can’t even begin to describe the stunning and magnificent grandeur that state possesses. For the next few Wanderlust Wednesday posts, I thought I’d spotlight some of the hiking my dad and I did over the trip. We went on three major hikes: Winner Creek trail in Girdwood, Mount Healy in Denali National Park, and Cathedral Mountain also in Denali.

So without further ado, I give you the first hiking recap…Winner Creek trail! 🙂

Girdwood is a town in Alaska located about 50 minutes outside of Anchorage inside Chugach State Park. After driving around, we stopped at a lodge called the Alyeska Resort to explore. To our surprise, a lot of day hiking trails started at the resort. My dad and I planned to do an easy/warmup hike that day, but didn’t want to ditch my mom in some random Bigfoot cave or port-a-potty, so it worked out perfectly–she got to relax by the fireplace while we ventured out into the rainy/misty woods. 🙂

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A little info about the Winner Creek trail:

  • Roughly 5.5 miles
  • Easy, level terrain (perfect for a warm-up hike)
  • Lots of dense forest, gorges, and some wooden bridges
  • Boasts a hand tram at the end of the trail that takes you out over the rushing water!

I was a little hesitant to go hiking since it was raining pretty hard when we arrived at the resort, but my dad and I had rain gear and I wasn’t going to let it interfere with vacation fun! The drizzle let up a little and the trees helped block most of the moisture, so it turned out to be really pleasant.

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The path was extremely well-groomed–wooden steps and walkways over mud-prone regions, steps created from tree roots–very easy to follow.

The first bridge we came to spanned a rushing creek. It was so serene and beautiful–my eyes were overwhelemed with all of the greenery, especially coming from brown, dead-grass-riddled Texas haha

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We ventured on, saw a few squirrels dart across the path, and eventually saw the hand tram sign.

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After walking another 1/2 mile or so, we made it to the wicked cool hand tram!! 😀 I hopped in the cage first and pulled myself out over the water. Standing at the station, I thought I would be nervous when I got out over the water in such a rickety, sketch cage, but it wasn’t creepy at all. The view was spectacular and the rushing water drowned out all other noise. My dad and I really enjoyed it–talk about a unique hiking destination!

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The rain started to come down hard again while we walked back, but the cloudy, overcast sky made for the perfect spooky backdrop amidst the mountains. 🙂

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Even though it wasn’t a strenuous hike and we didn’t get to see Bigfoot, it sure was a unique, gorgeous trail. So, if you’re in the Chugach area and are itching for a scenic hike, this is definitely one I’d recommend! 🙂

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Pony Penning Day in Chincoteague, VA

78th Annual Pony Penning Day

Chincoteague, Virginia

July 2003

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In elementary school, I had to read Marguerite Henry’s book, “Misty of Chincoteague” for a book report. Little did I know, it would ignite an extreme horse passion within me. The book is fiction, but based on real people and real horses. It’s about two kids from Chincoteague, Paul and Maureen Beebe, who wanted to buy and tame a wild pony on Assateague island named, “The Phantom.” Just some background: Chincoteague holds an annual event called “Pony Penning Day” in which cowboys roundup the wild ponies of Assateague island, swim them across the channel over to Chincoteague, and auction off some of the foals and yearlings. The auction benefits the Volunteer Firemen and it is done in order to keep the herd populations in check. After the auction and carnival, they swim the horses back over to Assateague where they live freely until the next round up. (You can read more about the event here)

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I still have the event poster hanging in my room!

So back to the book. Paul and Maureen worked many jobs to try to earn money to buy a pony of their own at the Pony Penning auction. One year, Paul is able to ride with the cowboys and he manages to round up the Phantom and her new foal Misty. Paul and Maureen buy the Phantom and Misty at the auction and spend the next years training the Phantom for a big race on the Island. I won’t spoil the outcome if you ever want to read it 😀

Needless to say, all I could think about was the wild ponies of Assateague and how cool it would be to see them once I finished the book.

Well, when I told my parents about the story, my dad looked into Pony Penning Day and thought it’d be a fun road trip!

So in the summer of 2003, we did just that.

(Sorry in advance for the lame picture quality, we only had film cameras then, so I had to sniper them from our scrapbook haha)

After a long journey in our truck, we finally made it! We brought our bikes so we could ride and explore the island without having to worry about our truck. Best decision ever!!

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Our first biking destination was to Assateague Island to visit the corrals where the ponies were being held before the swim. I remember being in utter heaven–surrounded by such gorgeous little wild ponies, inhaling the smell hay, seeing little foals frolicking and playing with their friends. It was so neat! My mom and I fell in love with the little gray foal the arrow is pointing to. I was trying to think of every way to fit him in our truck to take him home haha

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The next morning was the horse swim. It was rainy, but we didn’t care. We camped out in ponchos since 5am to get front row spots on the shore, but my camera couldn’t zoom very well, so just imagine little horse heads swimming across the channel where that arrow is haha!

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The drizzly weather didn’t stop the party–the cowboys then paraded all of the ponies through the streets of Chincoteague and down to the fairgrounds where the auction would be held. The auction was very lively and people crowded around to see the foals.

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We got kind of claustrophobic in the crowds, and since we weren’t doing any bidding (to my disappointment haha) we went to the Chincoteague Pony Centre to get some Misty souvenirs and then back to Assateague to do more exploring since the rain let up.

The water was COLD, so no swimming, but we did check out a cool lighthouse and I saw my first horseshoe crab that scarred me for life. Ask any one of my friends or family members and you’ll know I LOATHE horseshoe crabs more than anything. They are SO CREEPY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spare yourself, don’t google it.

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Anyway…the next day the ponies were rounded up and destined to swim back to Assateague. We got some great seats this time around and really got to see the cowboys in action. Some of the ponies got a little feisty haha!

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It was SUCH a fun vacation–definitely one I will never forget. I think it was even more fun to look back through our old scrapbook and reminisce on the adventure. I can’t believe that was almost 11 years ago! Time warp. 😀

If you’re ever in Virginia and want to witness a cool tradition or see some beautiful wild ponies, check out Chincoteague! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! 🙂

Wanderlust Wednesday: The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns, QLD, Australia

May 2010

wanderlust wed - CopyMany of you have probably read my other two Australia posts about Sydney and Ayers Rock, but now I felt I should write up a post about the first adventure my dad and I had in the land down under.

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Cairns is the most magical town I’ve ever been to. To most people, it appears to be a grungy beach town, but to me, it represents the greatest experience OF MY LIFE. I know I say that a lot, but this time, I mean it wholeheartedly.

After a 3 hour flight to LA from Dallas, a 14 hour flight to Sydney, and another 3 hours to Cairns, my dad and I were WIPED. The incredible view filling our plane windows definitely refreshed our jetlagged spirits, though!

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We FINALLY arrived!!!! …although our luggage didn’t.

But lack of fresh undies didn’t hold us back from exploring the first afternoon!!

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We walked along the Esplanade boardwalk, bought some Aussie themed swimsuits, and ate dinner at our hotel–first time ever having kangaroo. ALL I CAN SAY: BEST FOOD EVER. TRY IT. It’s like filet mignon but leaner! That night, we crashed hard and our luggage arrived while we slept. And in the morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel–best cantaloupe EVER.

While walking to the pier for our reef tour, we heard weird sounds in the trees above our hotel….

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FRUIT BATS! Never in a million years did I think I’d wake up to fruit bats just hanging out among other native fauna. It was so neat!

After gawking at the beauty around us, it was time to head out for the pier to catch ourSunlover Reef Cruiseto head out  for the trip of a lifetime.

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The boat ride was about 1.5 hours–27 miles of pure blue water, random islands, and REEF.

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First thing I did when we docked?

SNORKELED!!

My dad has ear trouble whenever he swims, so he couldn’t snorkel, but he was able to hang out in the wading cage, talk to our hilarious Swiss lifeguard, and be in charge of the camera. Our lifeguard said it was the best weather they’d seen on the reef in AGES. And boy was it ever!

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I couldn’t get over the fact that the Great Barrier Reef was filling the expanse of my goggles. Big fish, small fish, bizarre fish with freaky colors, coral, anemones, starfish, sea cucumbers, and a trench/drop off the height of a large building–it was nothing less of spectacular.

After swimming in what felt like a masterpiece painting, they called us over for lunch. It was a beautiful spread of fresh seafood and chicken. Delicious! After lunch, my dad and I went on a glass bottom boat tour, so he could get some more glimpses of what lurked under the water. The views were fantastic! We even saw a turtle!!

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After the ride, the crew fed some of the fish at the surface while we watched in an underwater viewing space below deck of our boat. TONS of teeny fish and ginormous fish swam by; the flashes of color were phenomenal!

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Even though it felt like the trip lasted 2 seconds, it was time to head back to Cairns. I gotta admit, I was a little choked up seeing the dock station fade into the horizon.

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Pulling back into the harbor, my dad and I reveled in the amazing day we’d just had. It looked like rain, so we were thankful to be back safe and to have had a sunny reef tour. And, to top off the great day, my dad spotted a dolphin right and we saw him leap out of the water! Seeing that dolphin and feeling the breeze on my face made me feel so blessed to have had such an amazing experience. It was the best thing to check off my bucket list, that’s for sure! 🙂

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