Note: Post updated on 6.6.17 at approximately 6:40 pm, so viewers can click on photos to enlarge the images.

Memorial Day Weekend marked my third trip home to Nashville since I moved to Colorado. Our friends Clint and Casi tied the knot downtown, and I wasn’t about to miss that!

Ever since I took Emergenetics and realized I’m much less structured than I thought, I decided to not plan out this trip as thoroughly as I would have in the past. I also decided to sit as close to the front on the plane as I could, since my assertivness is so high, and I prefer to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. I made loose plans with friends and family and hoped for the best. Not only did I see everyone I wanted, I managed to eat and drink at 8/12 places on my food tour!

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Normally I’m super emotional on the way to and from Nashville. I’ve cried on the plane before, but that wasn’t the case this time. My first trip in November 2015 left me feeling more homesick than expected, and quite frankly, it was awful. My last trip ended on a somewhat weird note, too.

So for the first time in years, I prayed. I prayed on the flight, “Please let me get what I need from this trip.” My dreams have been far too vivid in recent years for me to believe I’m completely adjusted. When I left Tennessee, a few things remained unresolved, and part of this trip was a peace-seeking effort to lay unfinished business to rest.

My flight landed at 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 25th. I stayed with Mom the first three nights, Nashville on Saturday night and my Dad’s house the last two nights.

 

Late night vibez at the airport

When I got to Mom’s house, I was delighted to see my girl, Pookie. Pretty sure she still remembers me. She was purring up a storm and sleeping on my clothes. This sweet and charming beauty turned 15 this year. We are beyond grateful she has lived for so long. I love my cat Junip, but Pookie is truly my #1.

The following morning, Mom and I booked it to Gabby’s for breakfast burgers. And by breakfast burgers I mean, burgers for breakfast without any eggs or bacon. Their grass-fed beef with homemade buns make for the very best burgers this side of the Mississippi. And when I forgot to order the fruit tea, the cashier let me slide for buying a Gabby’s t-shirt. I can’t speak highly enough of this establishment. It’s a must-do if you’re in the Nashville area.

Not even an hour later, Mom and I met Nichole in Smyrna for Bob’s Barbeque, another one of my favorite places to eat. The barbeque scene in Colorado is depressing, so I have to get my fix when it’s available. I was brought to tears when we rolled through Smyrna, and all these people were lined up on the side of the road to honor Captain Kuss, the fallen blue angel pilot that lost his life while practicing airshow stunts last summer. My Mom and I had no idea of the memorial or the plane coming through Smyrna to honor the victim and his family. It was a very moving tribute to say the least and reminded me of why I’m so proud to be from Smyrna.

I caught my Dad just as soon as he finished mowing the yard. We couldn’t stay too long, because I had a hair appointment with Casi, but we still spent time together afterwards. Long story short, my most recent stylist in Colorado failed to do her job, so Casi added some red toner for $6. I asked repeatedly if she was absolutely positive she had time to do my hair; she was getting married in three days, after all. But her sister Gianna needed a hair cut anyways. After being charged an astronomical amount for disappointing color, I was grateful for Casi’s generosity. Thus, took about 10 selfies, which is super rare for me. I’m not huge on insecure, attention-seeking behaviors, but when my hair looks good, it’s worth showing off.

 

Love my Dad’s flowers
Reunited!

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Candi and I grabbed dinner at Omni Hut with my Mom, her hubby and the kids. There’s always a friend or two I wish I had more time to see while I’m in town. This time it was Candi. I wanted to hear more about her new job, the kids and life in general. But alas, they were off to a baseball game for Landyn. The silver lining is Candi reminded me of Omni Hut’s BYOB policy. Mom and I had just enough time to run to the liquor store for some Malibu to compliment my fruit punch. Mai Tais, anyone?

BYOB at Omni Hut

Mom was kind enough to drive me to La Vergne to see my Grandma, as if being my chauffeur all day wasn’t tiring at all. I appreciated her assistance in helping me get around. Chris snagged me from Mom’s and took us to 3 Crow, my favorite bar in Nashville. I hadn’t had a real bushwacker in years. And this is the beauty of sporadic plans; nothing was set in stone that evening and yet, it all turned out so well.

Friday morning, Dad, Granny and I enjoyed a Cracker Barrel breakfast before the wedding rehearsal consumed much of my day. We practiced at Ariel, the swankiest venue on Broadway, before dinner at Mellow Mushroom where Clint and Casi met 11 years ago. I didn’t think I’d like the venue, set in the heart of the honky tonk district (ew), but Ariel is the absolute antithesis of bullshit, mainstream country music.

I rode with Ryan and David to Mellow Mushroom. There was about 25 of us meeting for dinner, and half of us were carless from out-of-town. It was confusing trying to figure out how everyone would get from Point A to Point B, but again, it all worked out just fine. The three of us arrived an hour early while everyone else checked into their hotels. We secured the best parking spot ever, which just so happened to be free. So we started drinking before everyone else arrived.

By the end of the evening, I was well on my way to toasted, but not as much as the maid of honor, “Lacey”. (More deets coming soon. And out of respect for this girl, I changed her name to protect her identity, even though I don’t like her.) I caught a ride with Will and Kooch to Clint and Casi’s hotel for some “night before the wedding” fun.

It goes without saying: Loews on the West End is swanky as fuck. I don’t think I’ve been to a nicer hotel besides Opryland; B&Bs in a league of their own don’t even count. I’m laughing at these pics of how nice everything looked before we absolutely destroyed that suite over the course of 48 hours. We partied Friday night, cleared most everything to get ready the following morning and trashed it again Saturday night. Between the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom, I was thoroughly impressed with the space.

Even the downstairs, outdoor lounge area was on point. I’m surprised we didn’t get kicked out for drinking and singing just a little too loudly. But the fact that we belted out Take on Me via Youtube, only for it to come on the radio on the way home was hysterical. Will and Kooch were nice enough to take me and Lacey home. I needed a ride; Lacey needed a sobriety buddy. We took her to the Holiday Inn, brought her to the room where Jessi (a total sweetheart) was already fast asleep, and Lacey refused to go to bed. She must have been blacked-out drunk, clinging to the door frame crying out “I don’t want to go to sleep!” Kooch politely shoved her in the room, and we shrugged it off. Little did we know how telling her behavior was. I was unaware of her severe alcohol use until a few days later.

The morning of the wedding, Mom drove me through Starbucks for coffee for us, Clint and Casi. Then she dropped me off at Loews, and luckily Casi bought everyone these tasty croissants filled with ham, bacon, sausage, cheese, etc. You’re probably thinking, “What a nice snack”, when in reality, this was breakfast and lunch.

For the bridesmaids, she got us customized tumblers with our initials on them. They’re huge and can store plenty of coffee, although that morning we used them for mimosas.

To my relief, several chicks from Bombshells arrived to do our hair and makeup for free. I still tipped them, but I was glad to not have to worry about my hair. My makeup would’ve been good, since I’ve practiced a full-face for months, but Bethany took it to a whole nother level. I’ve never worn fake lashes before, so I was feeling extra pretty on Casi’s special day. And don’t even get me started on the bride’s hair and makeup: She was absolutely beautiful!

The suite had two bathrooms: One in the bedroom and one near the living room. So the women got ready in the larger space while the men occupied the room next to us. I didn’t hear of any drama on their end besides Will’s tux missing the shirt that goes along with it. Luckily some guy from Men’s Warehouse hastily delivered the missing piece.

Apparently while we were getting ready, Lacey had a little too much to drink. And still, no one clued me in to her drinking concerns. The bridesmaids were almost ready by the time Cody (the photographer) arrived, so we waited downstairs for Casi to finish up. Amber and I were talking amongst ourselves when we noticed Lacey leaning forward to adjust her shoe. The next thing I know, Lacey has face-planted into the marble floor and is crying about her makeup.

I mouthed “What the fuck” to Amber and began to grow angry. How can the maid of honor be this wasted on her best friend’s wedding day? I thought. As a therapist, I know to keep my cool during crisis situations. As a bridesmaid, I wanted to punch this drunk chick in the face.

We ended up not doing pictures at Loews due to Lacey’s drunk ass with her red, swollen face, a knot on her noggin and a quickly developing black eye. But at least we finally had access to a shuttle. The hotel warned us earlier of 4 separate weddings other guests had already reserved shuttles to. At the very last-minute, we secured an Escalade and headed to the venue.

It wasn’t 5 minutes after getting in the shuttle that we hear Lacey say “Oh my God”. Amber asked what’s wrong, and she didn’t reply for several moments. I finally said “What’s wrong Lacey?”, and she started crying again, “I left the flash drive at the Holiday Inn”. The flash drive with the slide show on it. I couldn’t believe it. I won’t repeat what I said to her, but it wasn’t pretty.

Between me, Amber and about 7 other people, we finally found a way to pull the slide show from Youtube. And to my disgust later on, the slide show mainly consisted of pictures of Lacey, Clint and Casi, and that was it. Amber and I combed through our own photos of Clint and Casi to give to Lacey, and many of those photos included her friends from Tennessee. I’m not mad that I was only featured in one out of 100+ photos; I’m mad because the last 12 years of Casi’s life in Tennessee was so underrepresented. I added pics of several wedding guests so they would be surprised to see themselves on the slide show, too, but most of the pics were of Casi and Lacey in middle school and high school.

Later on in the evening, while everyone was dancing, Lacey slammed into me, causing me to spill my second cup of wine all over my chest and Todd who was dancing next to me. I tossed what little bit of wine remained in the glass at her, and as she pappeared confused, Casi’s sister Cari rushed over. Cari said (and I quote), “You better be glad that this is the first glass of wine you’ve had thrown at you all night. Do you not understand how many people you’ve upset this evening?” Lacey apologized, and I excused myself from the dance floor. I was honestly embarrassed for acting so impulsively, but one thing led to another and I was pissed by this point. To my dismay, several people pulled me aside and either high fived me or said she deserved it. Apparently more people saw the incident unfold than I realized.  But not a single person chastised me, and she didn’t even remember what happened the following afternoon. The irony was throwing my drink right after Move Bitch came to an end.

Despite the bullshit with Lacey, it was still an awesome wedding.

I ran into so many people I hadn’t seen in years: JD (relocated to Ohio), Kourtney (still living in Smyrna) and Khanettra (vanished for 5 years). Plus I got to see Marissa, Tiffany and Tim. And, I hadn’t seen Casi’s stylist friends since before the move: Shannon, Cassie and Gina. I’m sure I’m missing several others, but it was truly the ultimate reunion. And of course, it was awesome to see Caitlin and Stephanie and to meet Caitlin’s new boyfriend. I actually like this new guy! Which is good, ’cause if I didn’t, I’d find a way to scare him off.

The decor was absolutely gorgeous; black and gold and hints of coral came together perfectly. At the last minute, the bride and groom invested in a tent to protect us from the inevitable storm, but the lightning accentuated the event, adding depth to the backdrop. I love a good summer storm, and this one did not disappoint.

Something else I love is a solid dance party. This dj played some awesome music, and everyone was feeling it. My favorite moment was dancing with Amber and just laughing my ass off. She’s the funniest friend I have, and no one can match her moves.

 

The wedding came to an end once we realized Ariel staff were ready to leave. And then it hit me: We didn’t have a ride. Where did everyone go?, I wondered. Clint, Casi, Kooch, David, Will and I started walking in the rain as Will called to see if Amber and Alan could pick us up.

The rain hardly deterred us, as we were all varying degrees of sloshed by this point. All I remember is repeatedly pointing to Clint and Casi and yelling “They just got married!!! Tell them congrats!!”. Most strangers were good sports and congratulated the two, while one dude was a solid dick and almost got his ass kicked by the boys. His friend and a few other bystanders begged us to let it go and we did, while Kooch complained “I hate when assholes get away with stupid shit!”.

After walking several blocks, Amber and Alan retrieved us. I hadn’t rolled 8 deep in a car since high school; Amber was kind enough to share the front seat with me. We continued the party at the suite: Gianna and Cari ordered pizza for 30-something people and I stayed awake as long as I could. By 3:30 in the morning, I could barely keep my eyes open. Casi’s Dad helped me unfold the pullout bed, and I selfishly claimed dibs before anyone else had a chance.

The original plan was to ride to the Boro with Kooch and Will and to crash at Clint and Casi’s while they stayed in Nashville. Several others from the wedding party planned to stay at their place, too, so Roxy (their black lab), wasn’t home alone.

So when I woke up by myself the following morning in the suite, it startled me. I expected at least a few others to be sleeping in chairs or on the floor. The bedroom door was locked, and I had no idea who was in there. I couldn’t muster the courage to knock in fear of waking Clint and Casi. So I text my friend Erika, and she grabbed me from Loews.

Erika and I enjoyed some coffee from Starbucks before she drove me to my Dad’s house in Smyrna. Afterwards, I finally met up with Tika and Sadie–two of my long-time besties. We had drinks at Toot’s in the Boro, and I finally ate my weight in fried pickles. Sadie and I jammed to Toni Braxton on the way to Clint and Casi’s for a low-key, invite-only, post-wedding barbeque celebration. Their new house is spacious and perfect for them. We had a blast recapping the wedding and trying Puerto Rican dirty rice and honey sickle vodka. It was quite the combination.

Sunday evening, I finally got a decent night sleep–6 hours at best. I felt so glad to be at my Dad’s house where I grew up, sleeping in my old bedroom. On Memorial Day, I woke up super early for Fall Creek Falls with Matthew, Tika and the girls, my god-daughters. Tika had never been to FCF before, so Matthew and I were eager to show her our favorite spots.

Aside from the wedding and visiting family and friends, I was most excited about returning to FCF. This park is my favorite besides RMNP. Some of the best moments I’ve shared with close friends were at this park, from camping together, to laying down flat on a suspension bridge at night, staring at the stars, talking about life. From meditating to swimming and getting absolutely wasted, this park will always remain sacred to me.

I splurged on some t-shirts before we showed Tika and the girls around. I also bought two hats: One for Keegan and one for me. I’m more than happy to support the park, as sentimental as it is to me. We drove to several waterfalls and took to the nature loop. We meditated in our favorite secret spot, and I silently weeped as I stared off into the distance.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to return to this place. So much has changed in the last two years and yet, at this park, everything remains as it was. I haven’t felt such a deep sense of peace in years. This is what I came here for, I thought to myself. Even now, a week after this cleansing renewal of my beaten-down spirit, I still feel incredibly calm, centered and self-assured. My anxiety is completely gone. I am more myself than I ever have been.

I promised myself to savor this feeling as long as I possibly could and to mentally return to FCF anytime I feel stress in the future. So far, my mindfulness tactics are working. I am forever indebted to former President Woodrow Wilson for creating the National Park System and ultimately designating ownership of the park to the state of Tennessee.

It was difficult to leave, but we hit every spot I was dying to see. Matthew agreed to Demo’s for lunch where I checked off yet another place on my to-eat list. Afterwards we chilled and napped at my Dad’s. Tika had to leave early, but Matthew stayed with me till midnight. He even drove me to Sonic once we realized Karen’s Kustard was closed. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday arrived too soon. The days leading up to Nashville tend to drag, while my vacation usually breezes by in the blink of an eye. I always aim to see my Grandma and Granny twice, and both were available on Tuesday for me to see one last time.

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Dad dropped me off at Grandma’s house (my Mom’s mom), and I saved the tears for after he left. I’ll see my Mom’s family again soon, but it’s especially hard saying bye to my Dad when I don’t know when I’ll see him again.

I waited for my Grandma to get ready and caught up with my aunt and cousins in the meantime. My Mom arrived, and we were off to Monell’s before we headed to the airport. Normally it’s just me and Mom saying our goodbyes, but this time my Grandma joined us, and I was glad. My Mom could use the support, even if she can’t bear to admit it.

Monell’s marks my favorite soul food restaurant in Nashville and probably in Tennessee, aside from Klear Vu. This shit right here is the real deal. If I could cook this well, I’d open my own restaurant in Colorado in a heartbeat, just to blow everyone’s mind. No one out here knows what a meat and three is, which is truly a shame.

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Last but not least, we walked next door to the Cat Shoppe/Dog Store, my favorite pet store on the planet. We ought to make this a tradition, since this marked my last stop my last trip to Nashville. Snuggling adorable kittens right before I hop on a plane is exactly what I need from an emotional standpoint.

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The worst part of my trip was purchasing a $20 travel pillow at the airport, only to lose it 10 minutes later and not realize it was gone until I got on the plane. Needless to say, I had an awesome vacation.

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I didn’t notice the layover in Kansas City, Missouri until my Mom pointed out the week before. I’m glad she did, or else I would’ve been royally confused. Not to mention, I almost accidentally boarded a flight to LaGuardia. Thank goodness I realized I was at the wrong gate at the very last minute!

Several things I took away from my trip: Homesickness eases with time. I didn’t cry on my flight back to Denver, nor did I feel lonely, isolated or depressed. I’ve come a long ways in handling my emotions, and I am very proud of myself for developing my resilency and strength.

Two: Making peace with your past enhances present-moment thinking. Ever since I’ve returned to Denver, I’ve felt so light and peaceful and confident. Something that’s bothered me for years no longer bothers me anymore, because we worked it out. And I’ll leave it at that.

Three: Nature is my sanctuary. We compost, recycle and do our best to eliminate food waste, but it isn’t enough. As much as I appreciate this planet, I need to do more to demonstrate my gratitude.

Four: Everything changes and stays the same. No matter how long I live in Colorado, as the gap between my past and current life continues to grow, my friends and family will always be there for me. Their loyalty remains unmatched, and I am eternally grateful to have such a strong network of support.

Five: I am constantly evolving. Someone pointed out how much I’ve changed in the last two years, and change is inevitable. It’s a constant struggle between assimilation and retaining my southern heritage. At first I felt defensive, but then my friend elaborated; she was proud of me for making my dreams come true. She said I’ve changed in a good way and, “I’ve never seen you happier”.

It’s amazing to reflect on how far I’ve come psychologically, emotionally, and physically in terms of location. Sometimes it’s hard being so far from my family, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my life, and I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainity of it all.

Until next time, huge “Thanks!!!” to my family and friends in Nashville. I love each of you so much, and can’t wait to see you again soon.