Hello, friends! Last week from Thursday to Sunday, I was in Austin, Texas on a solo vacation. This was my first time in Texas and my first trip alone and I want to share my experience in case you decide to visit Austin someday or if you’re considering going on vacation by yourself. Or perhaps, you are just curious to know what I was up to, which is super flattering, thank you! I think the best way will be to break it down day by day, so let’s start with Thursday!

Thursday

On Thursday I arrived at Austin Bergstrom International Airport at around 10:45 am. I took a Lyft first and foremost to where I was staying. I couldn’t check in yet, so I decided to go kitty-corner to Whole Foods to buy some basic groceries: oat milk for coffee, oatmeal, apples, and a few snacks. From there, I hopped back into a Lyft driven by a retired Texas cop with three daughters, who gave me safety tips for the weekend. He took me to a place called Joe’s Bakery where I devoured some beef tacos and then headed back to my accommodations, which I would classify as something between an Airbnb and a hotel. It is called Locale and I chose their Downtown Austin location on Lamar and 3rd Street, which was a bit west of the main action. I was upgraded to an apartment with a king-sized bed for free and had a double sink in the bathroom, plenty of closet space, a granite countertop in the kitchen and an inviting, modernly design living space. They provided a fully stocked kitchen with all of the utensils and cookware, coffee, and more.

Then, I took a Lyft to the Texas State Capitol and caught the 3:30 pm tour. I learned about the six points of the Texas Lone Star (Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States, and the United States) and that the building is the largest in terms of the square footage of all state capitols. We were taken underneath the dome with the Lone Star in the middle (apparently it’s over eight feet wide). The tour guide was a bit hard to hear due to the raucous with elementary school kids and their teachers shushing them bouncing off the walls. Luckily, it was quieter in the Senate and Congress meeting rooms.

After this, I walked to the Bullock Texas State History Museum and was admitted for free since the museum was only open for about 45 more minutes. I was only able to get through the first floor, which covered early Texas history. As you can imagine, it was very violent! Afterward, I walked back to Locale to rest and get ready for dinner.

I booked a table at Fixe Austin, an elevated southern food restaurant with romantic, rustic decorating and phenomenal food. I drank a nice, earthy pinot noir from Santa Barbara and had an “appetizer” of a warm homemade biscuit straight from the oven, Meyer lemon butter, and homemade blueberry preserves that was nothing short of euphoric. For my entree, I had a red grouper, Carolina gold rice grits, local beans, sweet corn, red pepper chow chow, benne seed furikake with a side of charred broccolini, smoked Apache bleu cheese fondue, Meyer lemon. The meal was unbelievably delicious and I had a very attentive and friendly waiter. There was a fairly raucous group nearby with a cackling woman with big blonde hair dressed in black sequins. I was in too good of a mood, or perhaps a food coma, to mind all that much. By the time I was finished, it was around 10 pm and I was exhausted from walking all over, so I went back to Locale to rest up for the next day.

Friday

This was my favorite day because it contained two activities that I enjoyed the most. Also, the weather was the best, maxing out at a sunny 75 degrees, while Thursday had been in the forties (still an improvement from Chicago)! I made breakfast at my apartment, then walked through the University of Texas, Austin campus to the LBJ Presidential Library, which took just under an hour. I bought a ticket for $10 and walked the museum for an hour or two. Three of the 10 floors are open to the public. The museum is incredibly well-planned with permanent exhibits and a reproduction of the Oval Office during his presidency. My favorite part was being able to listen to snippets of LBJ’s secretly recorded conversations with notable people from Jackie Kennedy to J. Edgar Hoover. LBJ inherited a very difficult and intense time in American and World history. His legislation was generally progressive and well-meaning, but was overshadowed by the Vietnam War and other foreign relations fiascos. Still, I got the sense that he cared intensely about this country and quite literally wore his heart out during his leadership. The LBJ Library was an incredible, immersive experience and it spurred me to continue researching the period. Even for a non-history buff, I think it’s worth a visit.

After that, my feet and legs were tired and achy from walking and standing all morning and I decided it was time for lunch. I went to Casino el Camino, a divey rock bar with phenomenal hamburgers, recommended to me by my mom. The burger did not disappoint, but it was a long wait, so I just sat and enjoyed some ice tea and music from the jukebox. 

I went back to Locale and got rid of my jacket since it had warmed up substantially. I walked across the Colorado River to Barton Springs Bike Rentals and Tours, for the two hour “Austin in a Nutshell” bike tour. It ended up being a total blast. I was joined by a friendly Executive Assistant/Office Manager from Los Angeles and three ladies on a girls trip, hailing from Denver, Colorado. Everyone was extremely friendly and good humored. We were lead by the most enthusiastic, funny, and upbeat tour guide named George who shared tidbits and historical, yet modern facts about Austin. He obliged us all by taking our photos at various stops as well.

After this, I walked back to Locale and showered off all the sweat and dust then took a cat nap. Dinner on Friday was at The Grove Wine Bar + Kitchen, local wine bar known for their thin crust pizzas nearby that I’d been eyeing on my walks. I ordered a custom pizza with my favorite, spinach and onions, and had two glasses of Colene Clemens Margo Pinot Noir from Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon. There were a few cute couples around and this was the only time I wished I had a dinner mate with me. I became quickly distracted by a loud mouth idiot that was laughing and shouting. You could tell he was trying to be “the guy” and he was wearing dumb purple loafers. Fortunately, I was able to watch as the manager asked him to pipe down! I was even more exhausted from the walking and what was closer to a three hour bike tour (my group was especially chatty), so I went back to Locale around 11 pm and passed out like a baby!

Saturday

On Saturday morning, I had some oatmeal and coffee, then decided to walk on the trail along the Colorado River to get to the famous Greetings from Austin mural. A nice couple took my photo and I took theirs, then I hopped in a Lyft to Viva Day Spa where I had a custom facial that was very relaxing and refreshing. With my freshly glowing face, I got back in a Lyft to Kendra Scott’s flagship store on South Congress, which was adorable. I treated myself to a custom engraved ring as a sort of memento and a simple gold necklace to match a pair of earrings gifted to me for Christmas. In addition to the custom engravings, there was a color bar available where you could customize your jewelry. You can imagine the boyfriends and husbands sat around waiting for their ladies to make decisions.

I then walked north on South Congress to go to the famous South Congress Cafe (another recommendation from my mom). The wait was two hours but I was able to immediately snag a seat at the bar; one of the perks of solo travel. I ordered eggs Benedict on fried tomatoes and a potato pancake. It was delicious! Afterward, I continued up north on South Congress and people watched as I went. It was buzzing on Saturday; you can tell Austin enjoys its brunches and shopping! I walked all the way back from Locale to work off my meal, getting there around 2 pm. I took a nap then cleaned up to go to the Rainey Street Historic District. It was wild! Full of people drinking and partying and having a good time. I didn’t hear any live music, but rather there were DJs playing contemporary hits. It was a little too rowdy for me, especially by myself. If I were with girlfriends or a significant other, I would have stuck around, but the bars were full of groups and I felt it would be awkward. Instead, I stumbled upon The Roosevelt Room on 5th Street, which was way more my speed anyway. I had a basic glass of pinot noir but was really there to enjoy the ambiance: dim lighting, craft cocktail, speakeasy type of vibe.

I will say that since my dry January, I really haven’t had a strong desire to drink. I had a total of four glasses of red wine on this trip and nothing else. I mention this because I absolutely think you can have a great time in Austin whether you drink or not. In addition to a general lack of desire to drink, I think as a solo female traveler, I felt more comfortable enjoying a glass with dinner and beyond that, staying aware and alert. There is a legitimate homeless problem in Austin and while only one approached me that alarmed me the entire trip, I felt way more confident being out at night with my wits about me. I listen to too many true crime podcasts anyway.

For dinner, I went to Torchy’s Tacos, the Austin staple that everyone said I must go to. I ordered the beef fajita, the beef brisket, and a chicken taco. They were great, of course! I walked back to Locale after this (it was early enough and very close). I debated going out, but I decided not to as I had what I thought would be an early flight in the morning (it got delayed by two-three hours).


To sum up, Austin, Texas is a wonderful place to visit solo, as a couple, or with a group. While Texas is of course imbued in Austin’s identity, the city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird” for a reason. It draws in residents and tourists alike from all parts of the country and the world. It’s cosmopolitan while being earthy-crunchy. Austin struck me as friendly, easy to navigate, and generally progressive. The people I encountered were open, kind, and helpful. The Colorado River, Lady Bird Lake, and the surrounding greenery were beautiful and accessible with newer, expensive pedestrian bridges and riverside trails. The food was varietal but consistently good. The history of Texas and the pride of the locals were evident and fascinating. The only downsides included the prevalence of homeless people and the lack of live music opportunities, though admittedly, I prioritized good food, museums, and outdoor experiences first. I had also visited before South by Southwest in March, Austin’s days-long music festival. I would highly recommend a trip. Thank you for reading!


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After years of the same, creaky full-sized mattress with my “Psycho Mrs. Bates divot”, it was time to upgrade. A mattress is no small purchase, but I had been considering a Casper for a while, thanks in part to the advertisements on nearly all my favorite podcasts. So I embarked on some research, looking at reviews on independent YouTube channels and various blogs. This research and Casper’s controversial “100 nights risk-free” return policy, enabled me to make my decision to purchase a queen-sized mattress and upholstered bed frame.

Goodbye, old bed!

I found two guys on TaskRabbit (which I highly recommend for your household-related projects) to remove my old mattress, box spring, and bed frame. I then received the Casper bed frame, which was easy to assemble and looked fantastic. It was delivered on a Friday, three days after placing my order. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the mattress wouldn’t be shipped with it; the text specifying that items from the same order may not ship together was minuscule. As a result, I had a beautiful bed frame, with no mattress for about a week! I was not happy. After sleeping on the floor for a couple of days, I let them know of my frustration. They apologized and sent me two free pillows. Nice, but not really what I needed. Lesson learned: don’t get rid of the old mattress until the new one comes!

A little over a week later, I finally received my mattress. I had one of the TaskRabbit guys carry the box up the stairs; I probably could’ve done it on my own, but I didn’t want to injure myself and my back and neck aren’t in great shape. Once the box was inside my apartment, I removed the rolled-up mattress and removed the plastic. I could hear and see the mattress filling with air, which was fascinating. I took the box out to recycle, and voilà, I was done.

I was enthusiastic, of course, to get off the floor, but I have to say, my sleep has been incredible. The Casper is somewhere between firm and soft and even though its memory foam, I don’t find myself getting too hot. Having a queen-sized bed is wonderful as well; more room and the feeling of envelopment. I got new bedding as well. A cozy gray furry comforter and sham covers. When I move in May, I will be transitioning away from the navy blue accents and will get different throw pillows/blankets. But for now, this is what it looks like.

At last!

My overall rating of the Casper mattress experience is 7 out of 10. The deduction comes from the frustrating delay in delivery. They should make it more obvious that the items will ship separately. Beyond that though, I’m sleeping very well so far and if for some reason, I’m not any longer, then I have 100 nights to return!


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On Sunday while having lighthearted brunch with my lovely and hilarious friend Danielle, I received a text message that Kobe Bryant had died. I gasped audibly in the restaurant and a few expletives admittedly escaped my mouth. I’m not a sports fan, but I did grow up playing basketball. Regardless, everyone knows how iconic and legendary Kobe was and it rattled me, especially when hearing his beloved 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, perished in the helicopter crash as well.

Of course, social media swelled with images of purple and yellow, quotes by and about Kobe, and somber mourning, from fans and celebrities alike. It appears that much like me, the world is in shock. How could a 41-year-old superman just be gone like that? By all accounts, it appears he was a doting father and husband. I can only imagine the pain his wife and other children must feel right now. I imagine it is searing, blinding, inhibiting all functionality. And it was with these thoughts that I continued my day, feeling progressively more depressed and aware of mortality and the fragility of life.

I barely slept. I had racing thoughts and I cried. I should’ve put my phone down, but I didn’t. I guess I wanted validation that I wasn’t the only one reeling from this tragedy and the harsh reminder that life isn’t always fair, it often doesn’t make sense, and it’s all out of our control. We can do what we can, but freak accidents happen. I don’t know if turning 30 last year made me hyper-aware of this, but in therapy, I’ve noticed myself focusing more on the existential concepts of life and death. I am not ashamed to admit that I am afraid of losing my loved ones and of dying, but I also recognize that I need to talk about it and process it more.

I found some comfort this morning in a group message with two of my best girlfriends. All three of us slept poorly and felt the emotional impact. Not an ideal mood to start the week, but at least we aren’t alone. We remain grateful to be alive and cherish our loved ones. And that’s really all we can do.


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For January, I decided to abstain from the consumption of alcohol. Even though we have another week of January left, I can already report that it’s been a personally positive and socially interesting experiment and I would recommend trying a dry month, or even a week because there are some very obvious benefits. I’ll share mine below.

The most immediate physical changes I’ve noticed have included much better, sounder sleep as well as a major reduction in the acid reflux I’m afflicted with at times. I also haven’t had to deal with the dread aftermath of a hangover: dehydration, nausea, headache, etc. I’ve been able to take five to six CorePower classes a week, so I feel more toned and leaner. Mentally, I’ve avoided the guilt that often comes with hangovers. I feel way more energetic, productive, and focused. I also feel less stressed, no doubt in part because I’ve been able to attend so many CorePower yoga classes this month. The benefits are financial as well; I’ve undoubtedly saved quite a bit of money by not drinking when I go out to eat with my friends.

The only time I felt tempted to drink was during my traditional family dinner at Athenian Room with my uncle, his girlfriend, and my brother. I love having a glass or two of red wine with my go-to skirt steak and Greek fries. Don’t worry though, the salt from the meal made me puffy even without the wine! Other than that, though, I haven’t craved alcohol or found abstinence to be particularly challenging.

That being said, the outward reactions to a dry month are mixed. From friends to matches on dating apps. Some have congratulated me, some say they could never do it, some don’t understand it, and others don’t care. And really, it doesn’t matter. It’s a very individual choice and I am still the same person and my company is the same, though arguably, happier and healthier. Come February, I don’t plan to beeline it to the liquor store, but I will drink again in moderation. When I travel to Austin, Texas for a long weekend vacation, I will treat myself. That said, I do think I will drink less than I used to because the benefits are there and as I said, I haven’t missed it all that much.

Have you ever done a dry month? How was your experience? Comment below!


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Warning: spoiler alerts!


On Saturday night, I watched the much-talked-about Netflix documentary, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Directed by Geno McDermott, I found this three-part docuseries to be fascinating, but also frustratingly inconclusive and lacking evidentiary support. Still, I think it’s worth a watch considering its commentary on mental disease, identity crises, and one of the most profitable businesses in the United States: professional football.

Admittedly, I am not an enthusiastic football fan, but I do remember hearing about Aaron Hernandez after his 2013 arrest. Still, it didn’t have a huge impact on me. I had just returned home from a short stint in New York City. My life was kind of a mess, and I was focused on getting a job. Watching this documentary helped me to understand just how dramatic his rise and fall were; almost on par with O.J. Simpson’s indictment for the murder of his late wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.

The series explores Aaron Hernandez’s childhood in Bristol, Connecticut, raised by his machismo, football star father, a seemingly aloof mother, and his older brother DJ, a football talent in his own right. Like his father and brother, Aaron was blessed with natural talent and athleticism. He blossoms in all sports, but particularly football. This leads to an eventual three-year stint at the University of Florida, a National Championship, as well as the John Mackey Award in 2009. In 2010, he is a fourth-round draft pick by the New England Patriots, despite his first draft talents. We learn that this is because of disquieting and concerning questions around Hernandez’s character, including drug abuse, incidences of violence, and seedy associations.

And the murders. In 2012, Aaron murdered two innocent men that he encountered at a Boston nightclub on a slow Sunday evening. Their names were Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, 29 and 28, respectively. They were immigrants working hard to make a living with no criminal histories or associations. In 2013, Aaron murdered Odin Lloyd, a minor league football player and well-regarded son, brother, friend, and teammate. He also attempted to murder his “friend”, Alexander Bradley. What’s mind-boggling about this is Aaron’s double life, as both a murderous “gansta” and as one of the best tight ends in one of the most successful NFL organizations. At his peak, he signed a five-year $40M contract with the Patriots in 2012 after a successful 2011 season that included scoring in the Superbowl game. The purpose of the docuseries is to find out, why?

The documentary drops a bombshell that Aaron may have been gay despite his engagement to Shayanna Jenkins and his child by her, Avielle. A high school football friend and teammate recounts a secret sexual relationship between the two. One of his defense lawyers, who is gay, reminisces on a conversation between the two when Hernandez asked if he thought homosexuality is something one is born with. A few Patriots teammates recall some rumors they had heard. We hear that Aaron’s dad was a man’s man, and would not tolerate any behavior he deemed homosexual or anything but stereotypically masculine. Beyond this, we aren’t given any sort of corroboration, evidence, or comments, least of all from Aaron. If, as the documentary suggests, Aaron’s murderous behavior was affected by an identity crisis of sexual orientation, they would’ve explored that more thoroughly.

Another possible reason, or excuse, depending on your perspective, was Aaron’s brain health. After Hernandez’s suicide in 2017 while incarcerated, his brain is studied by preeminent Dr. Ann McKee who studies neuro-degenerative disease at Boston University in their CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) Center. She reported that Hernandez’s brain showed signs of advanced damage.

“We can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior, but we can say collectively that individuals with CTE of this severity have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, aggression, often emotional volatility, and rage behavior,” McKee said.

Hohler, B. (2017, November 9). Aaron Hernandez’s brain was severely afflicted by CTE – The Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/patriots/2017/11/09/doctor-details-her-findings-after-examination-aaron-hernandez-brain/USjpN1t5Ic02JPG20heeVN/story.html
Dr. McKee presenting her findings.

While this is a more evidence-based theory, we have to remember that many football and contact sport athletes also suffer from CTE. There have been cases of both self-inflicted and outward violence, however, there is no indication that the majority do.

Another theory was Aaron’s childhood and home life. We hear a few times that his father, Dennis, was abusive to his mother, Terri. Aaron’s brother DJ recounted in his memoir that Aaron was sexually abused by an older male babysitter during a game of “hide and seek”. And after his father’s shocking death from complications of hernia surgery, his mother gets together with the husband of Tanya Singleton, Aaron’s cousin and confidante. Disturbing, yes? But an excuse for murder? No.

The National Football League and the New England Patriots don’t escape the finger-pointing. It does appear that at worst, they knowingly concealed, and at best maintained a willful ignorance of Hernandez’s bad behavior and shady associations all for the sake of protecting the organization and their profits. Soundbites of Roger Gooddell and Robert Kraft espousing the advantages and healthiness of American football hammers home the “greed is good” interpretation of the league and the very ardent reminder that it is still a for-profit business. Even back at the University of Florida, Hernandez never had to face the consequences of his violent, typically unprovoked behavior. Why? Because he was a football star.

While it’s clear to me that all of these factors certainly play a part, Aaron Hernandez was a sociopath. For example, his behavior shown via home security recordings the morning after the murder of Odin Lloyd is telling. He hangs out with two associates that participated in the murder, playing with his baby, and acting relaxed. He does not appear at all concerned about what he had just done. His ability to compartmentalize and his apparent lack of empathy are hard to believe, though suggest someone sociopathic by nature.

It’s certainly a thought-provoking documentary and the Shakesperian drama of Aaron Hernandez’s rise and fall is highly entertaining, but I felt that it failed to explore or provide enough evidence around its assertions. Perhaps that was McDermott’s intent, but for me, there could have been a few more episodes to really explore all of the factors, and more importantly, to hear from other, less peripheral sources in Aaron’s sad life.

My takeaway from this documentary? I do not feel a tangible amount of empathy for Aaron Hernandez. Even with all of his misfortunes, he made horrible choices based on self-created paranoia and the desire for attention. He was professionally successful and rich. There was no reason for him to lead a “gansta” double life. There are plenty of people that have dealt with the same obstacles he did: a crisis in sexual orientation, a dysfunctional upbringing, brain damage, or being part of an unethical system that will protect you as long as you make them money. He snuffed out innocent lives and didn’t seem to be bothered by it, except for the fear of being apprehended. What a waste.

What did you think of Netflix; documentary, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez? Leave a comment below!


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As I mentioned in my earlier posts this year, I have decided to reinvigorate my dating efforts this year. Of all of the applications available, I have found Bumble to be the most fruitful…to some extent. After chatting with an interesting person for the last week or so, he canceled on me twice. I wasn’t rude in response, but rather let him know it was unfortunate and stopped responding when he kept trying to hammer his reasoning home. I understand that things happen, but considering the pattern that was already developing, I felt it’s best to just move on. I don’t think it’s personal towards me (how could it be when he’s never met me?), but rather an indication that he may not consider follow through when it comes to dating a priority.

Inevitably, after this second cancellation last night, I was feeling a mixture of disappointment and frustration. It was something I was looking forward to, but it made the dialoguing over the last week or so feel like a waste of my time. My initial impulse was to do something to distract or numb myself, but in thinking about it, reaching for a bottle of wine or ordering pizza just weren’t the solution. They may have provided temporary relief, but I realized the best thing for me to do was to sit with my feelings while being kind to myself. So after work, I decided to go to my local Whole Foods and have a healthy, comforting dinner (roasted broccoli, cauliflower, lemongrass tofu and peppers, and cauliflower mac & cheese). I sat in the dining area, surrounded by other people, so I didn’t feel quite so alone.

I went home, washed my hair, got prepared for bed, read, and went to bed early. This morning, I went to a CorePower class (my fifth this week). In a little while, I’ll be going to the hair salon. Already, the intensity of my feelings has dissipated and I feel better. I strongly believe our reactions to adversity are the most important. People will disappoint you, but there’s no need to numb it or brush it off immediately. That said, I’m hoping the next person I connect with actually intends to make the date and meet me. I have a lot to offer!


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I had a moment this weekend where I just realized how good life is. I’m starting the year off on a high note. I’ve been working really hard. This past week was my first week back at work, no days off. We are already flush with new searches and I met with several candidates. Three times, I went to CorePower Yoga for their 45-minute sculpt class at lunch. On Wednesday night, I met my Uncle George, his partner Cecylia, and Bill for our traditional dinner at Athenian Room. The skirt steak and Greek fries, as always, were delicious and, as always, made my eyelids puffy the next morning from the sodium content.

Yum!

This weekend, I got myself out of my apartment quite a bit. On Friday, for a surprise going-away party for our dear family friends moving to Denver, on Saturday to “watch” football with my friend Arie, her husband Ben, and their friend Brett. And on Sunday, a lovely brunch with my friend Sarah at the classic Bakin’ & Eggs on Lincoln and Barry. I’ve enjoyed the month so far and have felt equal parts busy and relaxed. I’m trying to remind myself that a day off is necessary sometimes so as not to run myself ragged.

The healthy (and delicious) spread at Arie’s.

It does seem that despite my activities and buoyed spirit, that little blue shade of seasonal affective disorder is still finding its way in. Just a little. Next month, I plan to get out of town for a bit to expose myself to some sunshine and have a vacation of sorts. I’m okay with it being really low key; I just feel compelled to get away from Chicago this time of the year. At the moment, I’m considering domestic locations including Palm Springs, California, Austin, Texas, and possibly somewhere in Arizona. I have not been to any of these places but I think a long weekend to at most, five days, would be sufficient to reap the benefits of their climate and get a decent look around. Any recommendations are certainly welcome.

I hope everyone has a great week and remains kind to themselves, especially if they have lofty resolutions. As I’ve learned more and more, life is precious and should be enjoyed as much as is possible daily. Thoughts of gratitude help. I also think exercise is vital. It quite literally creates brain activity to make you feel better. Focusing on the people that bring value and inspire you to be your best is also a great tool. It sounds very hokey, but I mean it sincerely. Take care, all!


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Recently, a Loop location for the popular workout chain, CorePower Yoga, was installed on the second floor of my office building. They offered a pretty compelling deal that included a weeklong free trial. My very first class was a 45-minute iteration of Yoga Sculpt, which I believe is unique to the Loop location so that downtown professionals can work out over lunch. This was almost a week after having been diagnosed with strep throat. I was still on antibiotics. I told myself to take it easy, but I managed to get through fairly well despite not being fully well. Yoga Sculpt is a fast-paced hot yoga class that infuses weights and cardio. Typically, it’s 60 minutes, though they also have 75-minute classes on the weekends. I’ll be working my way up to the latter soon, hopefully! It’s incredibly challenging in terms of strength and stamina, but I have never regretted a single class. It makes you feel glorious.

Andrea and I before a 45-minute Yoga Sculpt class at the Loop location.

Since my start in mid-December, I’ve taken Yoga Sculpt classes at four different locations. Luckily, they seem to be everywhere in Chicagoland and I was even able to attend class on Christmas Eve near my mom’s home at Old Orchard. There was only one YS class that I had to leave after 30 minutes, but this was because I rushed to get there right when I woke up. I didn’t eat breakfast and wasn’t hydrated enough. I went home, relaxed, ate, hydrated, and returned to try again for a later class, which I finished successfully.

In the past, I assumed that CorePower Yoga was elitist, overly priced, and not a diverse community. I was wrong. I’m glad the convenience of the Loop location prompted me to try it. Now I go regularly to the Lakeview location as well. Sculpt seems to draw a predominately female audience, but I’ve seen men in there too. When I took their Hot Power Fusion class this past Saturday, which reminded me much more of the Bikram style, the class appeared to be an equal mix of females and males. I have also noticed more racial and age diversity than I expected. While all of the teachers are different, they foster a welcoming, non-judgmental, and inspiring practice. I don’t think about my weight, the brand of my workout clothes, or how flexible I am compared to my neighbor. It just doesn’t even cross my mind.

I walk away from each class CorePower class feeling lighter, more relaxed, and centered. I won’t lie; my body has been pretty sore and fatigued at times, but I’ve been sleeping better and have noticed my clothing fitting better. I do think it’s important to do things on the side to come to the mat fully prepared, whether that’s foam rolling, slugging water, eating well, and getting a monthly deep tissue massage. At least for now, I realized that doing Yoga Sculpt every other day is best for me, otherwise, I might get injured. I plan to take a C2 class soon, which I believe is a more classic vinyasa flow, to make sure that I’m also prioritizing flexibility and mobility, besides just strength and toning.

I canceled my gym membership with Chicago Athletic Clubs and so far, I don’t miss it. I like the community and extra push that comes with group fitness and guidance. Plus, the gym I used to go to had yoga classes right beneath the treadmills so it was not a peaceful environment. I also believe the heated rooms have helped me with being looser, which is especially helpful considering my neck and back pain. I also signed up for CorePower’s Power Up Challenge this month: 20 classes in a month. If you succeed, you can be entered to win prizes, but for me, I’m just wanting to challenge myself physically and mentally (it would be cool if I won something though!). What’s also helped is having a dry January so far. I’ll be posting about that experience after the end of the month. 

In health, Megan,


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A lot of people look at the new year as an opportunity to refresh and buckle down. Austerity tends to be the main focus in January in nearly all imaginable categories: food, alcohol, money spending, entertainment, etc. It’s also an opportunity for many to “take back their health” now that the holiday festivities have ended.

For me, skin health is always important. It’s the largest organ on our body and is often the biggest tell in terms of our lifestyle. So beyond eating well, abstaining from drinking and smoking, how can you give your skin the tender loving care it deserves without loosening your January purse strings too much? Well, I’ve boiled it down to three essential categories with both a budget friendlier and a splurge option. I have personally used these products and can highly recommend them.


Moisturizer

No matter the clime, we all need to moisturize. I live in Chicago, so this is especially important during the winter season. Aveeno has always been a drug store favorite and I like that they have an extra boost of SPF in their moisturizer (there’s also an SPF 30 option). It’s oil-free and the soy extracts help to even skin tone and create a more radiant visage. At the moment, I’m religiously using Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream morning and night. It’s very luxurious, rich, anti-aging thanks to antioxidant-rich ingredients like Japanese purple rice, Okinawa algae, and hyaluronic acid. Plus it smells lovely!

Budget Friendly: Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Face Soy Moisturizer SPF 15 | $13.99

Splurge: Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream | $68

Cleanser

Everyone likes to end and start their day with a clean face and dermatologists seem to recommend gentler cleansers these days without the stripping chemicals and big exfoliating microbeads that can damage the skin. Cetaphil’s classic cleanser is soap-free and perfect for sensitive skin in addition to being fragrance-free. If you like a little scent, Youth To The People offers an equally gentle cleanser that’s like giving your face a shot of green juice. Ingredients include antioxidant-rich kale, spinach, and green tea! Plus, it’s packaged in a recyclable glass bottle.

Budget Friendly: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser | $12.49

Splurge: Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser|$36

Sunscreen

Sunscreen is probably the most important anti-aging product. Even when it’s not sunny out, you should be applying.

It’s easy to assume that if it’s not sunny outside then you don’t need sunscreen – after all, you’re not feeling the sun on your skin. But actually, you can still get sunburnt even when it’s overcast and grey outside. It’s the UV index that puts you at risk of burning, and that exists whether its bright and sunny or cloudy.

Downey, A. (2019, August 29). Should you wear sunscreen even when it’s cloudy? Retrieved from https://patient.info/news-and-features/should-you-wear-sunscreen-even-when-its-cloudy.

Both of these options offer UVA/UVB SPF 50 sun protection and they’re non-greasy, easily applied, and wearable with makeup.

Budget Friendly: Neutrogena Face Sunscreen For Sensitive Skin SPF 50 | $11.79

Splurge: Kiehl’s Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+ | $38


If you’re looking to spend less but make more of an impact on your skincare, sometimes, less really is more. Boiling it down to essentials is better for your wallet and over-treating skin can wreak havoc. I plan to keep my routine more minimalist this year, built on the foundation above. Take care of your skin in 2020!


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A lot of people are posting about the ways they’ve changed in the last 10 years because we’re entering not only a new year but an entirely new decade. As with all people, there were instances and even periods of angst, but my accomplishments and personal development have mostly eclipsed that. I believe that I’ve trained myself to focus on the positive, including when reminiscing on the past. Still, I don’t forget the struggles completely; I’ve simply contextualized them in the lens of resilience and improvement. Here’s what happened in the last 10 years of my life:


I established a fulfilling career.

As an English major, my career path was fairly open-ended. I knew I didn’t want to teach and I was also aware that writing would not get me out of my mom’s house until I was 30. After a spontaneous decision to live in New York crashed and burned only after several months, I returned to the north suburbs of Chicago with my tail between my legs. It took one more brief stepping stone before I found the company for me, where I’ve been since 2014. It took a while to acclimate to the recruiting industry (it’s not for the faint of heart), but my personality was well-suited for it and I’ve always been determined to succeed and excel. The best part of my job is becoming friends with many of the people I’ve represented in their search.

I became estranged from my father, then reconnected with him.

I’ve written about this before a couple of times, but this may be the most important to me personally. I was fed up with the attitude and lack of attention that I received from my father and chose to end communication for over a year. As flippant as I was about the estrangement, it was tearing me up inside and manifested in unhealthy habits. Luckily, I recognized this and was able to work through it. Now, when someone asks me if I have any regrets, I can truly say no.

I returned to therapy.

My estrangement from my dad was the impetus to seek regular professional help again and I’ve found a therapist (who also happens to be an Indiana University graduate) that has helped me through the highly emotional and painful process of reunion with my dad. While I don’t see her as often at the moment, I look forward to our monthly conversations because she still helps me in finding actionable solutions to systemic or momentary issues with compassion and no trace of condescension. I can’t emphasize enough how immensely valuable seeing a therapist has been, even when things are going relatively well.

I overcame a long-term eating disorder.

After a decade of eating disorders, I was able to eliminate these behaviors and unhealthy obsessions with food, exercise, body image, and control. At times, the struggles left me feeling hopeless, but I never gave up trying to heal. I had to make decisions that, at the time, felt extreme such as leaving my sorority and ending toxic friendships, but it was vital in terms of regaining my health, sanity, and happiness. It feels like a lifetime ago since I was a prisoner to these illnesses, and that in itself is so beautiful.

I had my first serious relationship.

While it didn’t last particularly long, I met someone that I felt connected to on a very deep level. I was able to be my authentic self and feel appreciated for that. In this next year, I am hoping to meet more people with the ultimate result of finding another deep connection like that one, though admittedly, it hasn’t been a priority. Still, having had this experience gave me hope that there are people out there that make you feel wonderful and intimately connected.

I’ve established my finances.

Being in sales offers greater risk, but greater rewards and I can say that I feel pretty powerful and proud when it comes to my finances. I have established a comfortable savings account, a Roth IRA, a high credit score, and have even started investing with Robinhood! I was able to move to my own apartment and furnish it without the help of my parents. I’m extremely proud of this. In the next year, I will be even more focused on saving so that I can prime myself for home ownership.

I became more patient and understanding.

Through my job and simply more years on the planet, I’ve become more mature and far less black and white when it comes to life. I try to be more thoughtful about why people act the way they do and remember that 99.9% of the time, it has nothing to do with me. This isn’t the easiest in today’s sociopolitical climate, but I think it’s vital to staying productive and optimistic.

My gratitude increased.

With time, I have seen people, including very close friends, experience tragic loss, trauma, and major health problems. I’m not trying to discredit my struggles, but I recognize that I am a healthy and privileged person and I won’t forget that. I am grateful for my family, friends, my health, career, my opportunities, my resources, and my desire to do and be better.


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