Wednesday, March 27, 2019

KEEP GROWING & YOUR DAILY DOSE OF MOTIVATION


Maybe, for you, it's not writing. Maybe it's needling or singing or playing drums or drawing. I urge you: don't stop doing your thing because someone doesn't like it. That would be the saddest thing in the world. 

Today I'm off to work, for some huge healthcare giant. What the long-term plan for my job? Who knows. But I know this to be true: I will never stop writing. 

Regardless of what anyone says, I am confident in this: my identity isn't formed by what someone's opinion, or what I do. It's immeasurably more than that.

I hope you know this, too. I hope you never stop doing your thing either.

Offer your art today, whatever that may be. Offering your art without knowing the response you'll get? That's one of the bravest choices you can make.



Saturday, March 23, 2019

TEXAS SMALL TOWNS AND COLLEGE TOURING

When it comes to deciding which college you will attend, it can be hard to figure out the best way to go about it. Obviously one option is just to apply everywhere you’re remotely interested in and see what comes back. But this is your journey – and you should use it as a chance to learn about yourself and what you’re looking for. Narrowing down your college list can force you to decide where you could actually see yourself living, and the best way to do this is to physically visit the school and the surrounding areas. I suggest piggy-backing on the tour with a short vacation, to explore the area, amenities, cuisine and people.

Actually going to a campus will give you a feel for what it’s like to be a student there in actuality as opposed to figuratively. Before you buy a car, you take it for a test drive, and before you commit to a college, you visit. At least, you should, and that visit should be an official one, with a guided tour. Sometimes you’ll visit a campus and know instantly that it’s not for you. Sometimes you might visit a school that you hadn’t really been considering only to fall in love with the campus, city, vibe, or all three.

In fact, my daughter and I just completed our first college visit at University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, TX. The drive from Houston was approximately 2.5 hours, but if you know me, then you'll know the farm girl in me stopped numerous times to awe at the rolling hills of green pastures, sprawling oaks, and grazing furry four-legged friends.



We were received at Mary Hardin Baylor with warmth and open arms; everyone seemed so genuine and personable. I read somewhere that UMHB has been ranked one of America's top 10 prettiest campuses, and it truly is extraordinary to look at, but it's also worth mentioning their average class size is 18 students and their student body is rich in cultural diversity - both of which are important to our family. And if you're a nursing major, the privileges available are unlike anything I've ever seen - state-of-the-art facilities with a simulation center that mimics the Baylor Scott & White Hospital setting. Everything you would see in a real hospital setting, you would see in the UMHB nursing school. I was pleasantly blown away!


We always try to take a guided tour. (Most schools also offer maps for a self-guided tour, but you miss out on the wealth of information acquired on a guided one.) Student-led tours are the ideal occasion to learn about academics and student life from the students themselves. 

The atmosphere on the UMHB campus is warm and welcoming. There appear to be many different ways to get involved on campus, but still room for incoming students to put their own touch on campus life. The average classroom size is 18 students which is mind-blowing, coming from a 6A high school whose class size exceeds 25 in most instances. Lastly, I have to mention the nursing facilities, as you see in the images above - just wow! Unlike any nursing education environment I've ever seen or experienced! What a privilege it would be to have the opportunity to study here. It almost makes me want to go back to college. 

Almost.

While the town of Belton itself is filled-to-the-brim with goodness all its own, it sits between Temple and Salado -- all three pack a punch well above their weight class when it comes to dining, shopping, outdoor activities, and most importantly, charm.

Walk through a quiet downtown filled with quaint, locally owned stores, and you can smell the mom-and-pop restaurants cooking everything from burgers and fries to specialty dishes created by executive chefs. Residents walking their dogs stop to say hello and welcome you to their little slice of heaven. Even shop owners take the time to throw up a hand and issue a friendly greeting as you walk by. Many of the residents know one another, and festivals abound as an excuse to come together. And if you look hard enough, "small town" is usually a misnomer, because you'll usually find an abundance of things to do.

Eats:

In case you’re heading to central Texas in the future, I thought I’d share the restaurants where we dined, because I know when I travel I always want to know of good places to eat.  (If we didn’t like the restaurant I don't list it.)

Bird Creek Burger, Temple, TX: The Classic Burger, Avocado Toast (pictures below)

Los Mini Tacos food truck, Temple, TX: Mini Tacos, Fajita Tacos

Lively Coffee Shop, Salado, TX: Chai Latte, BLT sandwich, Chicken Salad Sandwich



 


Saturday, March 16, 2019

EASY TEXAS GETAWAY | GREAT WOLF LODGE, GRAPEVINE, TX


There are only two places where I allow my kids sit on the toilet -- one is home and the other is Buc-ee's. You may see the signs between Houston and Dallas that boast, “Rest-rooms You Have to Pee to Believe.” And while that's true and very likely the main attraction for some visitors, for me it's the wall of coffee, creamers, fudge and breakfast tacos. There are also Texas-shaped waffle irons, home decor (including Rae Dunn coffee mugs), “Have a Willie Nice Day” T-shirts, and the store’s best-seller, Beaver Nuggets. So, the next time you're in Texas, look up your nearest Buc-ee's - it's a must-see for sure.



Obviously, the enormous Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park is the final destination, with up to eleven different swim, splash, and slide zones -- where there is indeed an aquatic area for everyone age. However, we managed to arrive in Grapevine long before our check-in time, so we decided to see what Lego Discovery Center was all about.

It just so happens that it's not just a big building filled with legos -- there are actually 15 different attractions to experience – all included in the admission price. I especially loved the laserquest ride and the 4D theatre. I had no idea -- we were all pleasantly surprised!



Don't miss the aquarium next door -- it's equally as enjoyable and very interactive -- but seeing how this post is predominantly about Great Wolf Lodge, it seems I should hurry and get to the point.

Well...well...my friends, Great Wolf Lodge, with several locations across the United States, is an amazing place for a family-friendly vacation. My family has now been to Great Wolf Lodge’s mid-Texas location twice; my kids ask to go back all the time and it remains one of their absolute favorite places to go on family getaway.

GWL is actually pretty reasonable, especially considering families receive two days of water park access for a single night’s hotel rate. There is a variety of room options to choose from, for up to 8 people, but we are rather partial to the Wolf Den themed room which we have found to be perfect for 2 parents and 2 young children.


If taking your reluctant swimm
ers to a very busy water park gives you cause for concern, you are not alone. Rest assured, GWL goes above and beyond to help keep everyone safe. Even before you walk through the doors of the water park, staff members conduct height checks and administer colored wristbands indicating which areas of the water park are height appropriate.

GWL also has several racks of life jackets available for kids of all sizes to use. And at every corner, there are lifeguards keeping watch over their designated area.


Fun fact #1: Even though check-in isn’t until 4 p.m. you can start enjoying the water park as early as 1 p.m.! 
Fun fact #2: After checking in to our room, I received a text message from a staff member who was my “personal assistant” for the weekend. I could text her with any questions, and she sent me reminders of fun stuff was happening and check-out instructions!
Fun fact #3: My husband lost his wristband/room key on the first day. They replaced it without so much as a blink of the eye.
Fun fact #4: There was a freak power outage during our breakfast at Campfire Kitchen. Yes, not ideal but the food was still delicious (best french toast!) and the staff was accommodating despite the extenuating circumstances. Don’t let power outages get you down!
Fun fact #5: You can reuse your MagiQuest wand when you visit Great Wolf Lodge again in the future!
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