Graduating Girl: 5 Advices on Life


A letter to some of the gritty, get-after-it, gorgeous young ladies I know who graduated this year. When heading out into the great wide world remember:

One: Adults don’t have it all figured out.

Two: Don’t let anyone treat you like you are just a woman.

Three: Trust, trust, trust, trust, trust your gut.

Four: Find mentors. Make friends.

Five: Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Beware.

There are some things it just feels necessary to approach with thoughtful words– with your best. Pretending to give life advice is one of those things– a moment wherein you need to carefully asses the lay of the emotional landscape, if you will.

Most Graduating has come and gone. I missed my window to dole out my two cents before your four-corned mortarboards left your hand for the skies. But this letter is one to those who have already Graduated. You are now The Graduate. So I’m still going to send this message out to you as you wend your way onto life’s larger roads.

I’ll Not

Writing advices like these, you also have to be careful not to be cocky. Some pretty incredible Commencement Speeches have hit the history books. I’m most likely not going to say something as profound as Sheryl Sandberg in her commencement address to UC Berkeley this year when she chose to speak, not about life, but about death in the wake of her husband’s passing. A consummate tribute to the power that pain, struggle, challenge, and deep sorrow play in making us stronger, see it here.

I’m not going to say something as compelling as David McCullough Jr. did in 2012 to Wellesley High School when he emphasized that “You Are Not Special”, seen here. That’s right, he told every one of those graduates that contrary to what they might have been told in their Pampered Upper Middle Class Prep-School Enclave that they would NOW have to distinguish themselves as members of the human race to make their mark. That they were NOT the center of the universe.

“Get busy. Have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up. Get out. Explore. Find it yourself. Grab hold with both hands,” McCullough said. This speech is good stuff. It’s definitely worth a listen.

I’m not going to be able to pen something as catchy as Wear Sunscreen. Which was the foremost graduation speech in my day. A commencement speech given in 1997, so good that it was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, a writer’s cult favorite, even though it was actually written by Mary Schmich. You can read it here.

And I’m certainly not going to be writing a quintessential post-teen punk anthem like Green Day’s Good Riddance. Affectionately subtitled, Time of Your Life. No, that’s not my cup of tea. But I do want to share with a few things I’ve picked up on my journey. A few understandings that have come my way. I hope they’ll help you in some way.


Adults Don’t Have it All Figured Out

I vividly remember a moment last year. I was standing in the kitchen, scooping something into the trash can and I thought something to the effect of, “This is it? This is being an adult? I wanted and wished and hoped to be an adult all of my childhood life, and this is what it turns out to be?!? This stinks!” And I wasn’t referring to the trash in the can.

You see, I was that child. The girl who always wanted to be grown up. I don’t know all of the reasons for this, and I’m glad that I wanted to grow up instead of remaining an over-grown child. But I want you to know that ADULTING is HARD.

It is difficult to be responsible for yourself. Yes, sometimes it sucks. When the rent, and the electric, and the water, and the trash, and the cleaning, and the cooking, and the working, and child rearing are ON YOU. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming.

It can also be overwhelming to move closer into the lives, and hearts, and the emotional presence of the adults around you. I’m talking about parents, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and old friends who will now be (at least partial) peers to you.

You will see more clearly than ever that they do NOT know everything. That they have many questions and patterns that may continue to keep them in pain, and that they seem almost helpless to free themselves from these chains. The same people, so precious to you, who have bathed you, wiped your face, wiped your bottom, picked you up after falls literal and figurate, who are your heroes, your examples, your touch-points– they still have hopes, and dreams, and hurts, and unrealized realities, too.

Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be afraid. As you move closer into their realm, their worlds– watch them, learn from them, try not to be hurt by them. They are still learning to be adults, too. Learn from their mistakes and missteps. Love them. But it is okay to realize that sometimes even the adults around you don’t have it all figured out.

Last but not least, you do not have to take on the entire role of adult right now! Try it on. Move out of the house. Go away to school. Get all of the education you can. Find a trade and become an expert in it. Get a job in a nearby town.

The best part about right now is that you can still be 17, 18, 19, or 20, RIGHT NOW! The time for hard core adulating will come. The marriage, the babies, the career, the bills. You don’t need to pretend to be 25, 35, or 40. What I am saying is enjoy this moment of being. Enjoy this in-betweening. You’re at the end of your teens, on the cusp of your twenties. Enjoy being YOU, RIGHT NOW!

Don’t let anyone treat you like you are just a woman

The longer I live, the more I realize that we are humans. Not just a woman, not just a man, but a HUMAN. Yes, I do believe that there are certain differences between men and women. I am not qualified to suss out in their entirety which are nature and which are nurture. No one is. You will be able to see and discern and decide how you think it all breaks down as you grow and learn.

It is true that you have the ability to bear children and a man does not. It is true that we are also made up of certain chemical and biological differences– this dance of testosterone and estrogen, these X and Y chromosomes. But I do no believe that these differences make women any less qualified or competent to hold any job, work in any capacity, to reason, to make tough decisions, to be the CEO, be the president, or to change the world.

YOU are this infinite, incredible you. Never before existent, and never to be replaced or recreated in this space or time. Intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable, emotional, faceted, intricate, YOU. Never let anyone else create a lesser version of you. Especially in your own mind. Please remember that when others try to make you feel small, it is only because they are honoring the deceit of their own smallness.

When you are passed over for a job, a promotion, a handshake, an acknowledgment, or made to feel lesser than your male counterparts for any reason whatsoever, please do not take this as a sign of anything other than what it is– a societal inability to stretch, and reach, and accept, and achieve equality and equanimity in the present. Work for the change.

Along with that, you must learn the VALUE and STRENGTH of ALL THAT YOU POSSESS. You must come to know yourself intimately. You must ask yourself hard questions. You must do and try hard things– succeed or fail. You must never let anyone dismiss you, and most of all you must never DIMINISH yourself or others.

Trust, trust, trust, trust, trust your gut

You are still learning a lot about yourself at this point in life. I know that. You know that. You are still growing into the person you will and can be. That is good. Take that growing in stride. But simply because you are learning, and forming, and molding yourself doesn’t mean that you should throw all that you already know and believe out the window.

In fact, I have it on good authority that there is Someone out there who is looking out for you. I do believe that God– the maker, the creator, the designer, the potter, the omniscient, the omnipotent– loves YOU and has a desire for you to have what is the very best for you in your life. You are His, theirs, really.

This means that you have come equipped with a receiver, a beacon, a radar. It goes both ways. When your conscience tells you that something smells, majorly or minorly, (because sometimes the stink will be covered up by some other tantalizing aroma) something is most likely not good. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, to steal a phrase. So when your gut tells you that something isn’t right– go with your gut– ditch it!

This you trusting you trusting God business is NOT for the birds. The more you seek after the good, the uplifting, the truly beautiful, the sublimely joyful, the sweetest that Life has to offer, the more you will learn that your instincts are not off the mark. The more you will recognize that everyone is endowed with this inalienable ability to choose the good and eschew the evil. Do good! Choose good!

Find Mentors, Make Friends

Because you are transitioning into this young adult phase of your life, please be on the lookout for mentors, teachers, and honest guides. I cannot tell you when you will find them, I cannot tell you where you will find them. I can only tell you that you will.

I was privileged to meet some of my closest and most treasured friends when I was in college. These are relationships and friendships that I carry with me to this day. People who I have been able to celebrate as they have moved on to new phases, and stages, and achievements. People who have celebrated me at my wedding, my graduation from grad school, the birth of my first baby, the career opportunities that have opened up for me.

When one of my oldest and dearest friends walked into my freshman astronomy class and sat down next to me with a soda and bag of penny candy identical to mine the rest was history. A rich history of friendship in the making.

This woman became my running buddy, climbing partner, my adventure seeking associate, my letter of recommendation writer, and I think all we did to deserve this was to be ready for this next friendship with openness and care.

Look for these people, these soul partners. In many ways you find the deepest connections of your entire adult life in this next moment of your life. Be ready! In other ways you may realize that some of the relationships that you took for granted with your parents, grandparents, siblings, and current friendships, are actually some of the most important to you always. Either way, this is a time to build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. Beware

As you enter this phase of your life, a phase that potentially presents you with a lot more freedom, I want you to remember that the warnings you received in High School about SEX, DRUGS, and ROCK and ROLL were for a good reason. They still have a purpose.

And if you still don’t know very much about sex, sexuality, sexual activity, and the repercussions and sexual play at an early age, then for the love of all things go and educate yourself. Enroll in a birthing class, for all I care, but make sure that you know more than the basics, and make sure that you are informed about the entire process.

What I mean, to be a bit more blunt, is that abstinence is STILL the only way to be sure that you don’t get pregnant or contract an STD. Practicing sex at this point in your life is still very impractical because your need to create children is most likely at a low, as well.

Playing with sex is not only a recipe for pregnancy, it is emotional fire. Don’t forget that beyond the physical act of love making is an entire host of strong, powerful, purpose driven emotions that are meant to point you to eventual pro-creation. Does that mean you are ready for them? No. Absolutely not.

Sexual activity STILL carries with it the REAL and increasing LIKELY fact that you may contract some kind of sexually transmitted disease from your partner. This is not a statistical insignificance, this is a fact. I know that you have HEARD about crabs, gonorea, hepatitis, genital warts, herpes, HIV, PID, and HPV. You’ve probably laughed about it ALL with your girlfriends.

But none of these are a laughing matter. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) 15-24 year-olds account for HALF of all sexually transmitted diseases that are contracted each year. HALF. That the other half of the STD contractors come from the ages of 25-107. Yes, you’re almost 10 times more likely to contract a STD than the rest of the population COMBINED!!!!!!!

If you are going to choose to be sexually active, because this is a choice within your purview, then you need to practice proper protection for yourself and for your partner. Just because you do it in the dark doesn’t mean that the consequences aren’t always brought to light, and I can assure you that there WILL be consequences. Be smart. Be informed. Be safe.

The same goes for DRUGS and ROCK and ROLL. Both have their purpose. Both can be healing, but you have got to screw your head on straight and wise up to the fact that these decisions will be part of your existence, so to decide your path now will bring you peace now and health later on. Enough said. (There is always more to be said on this subject, but when in doubt, educate yourself MORE.)


I really do hope that you will live this portion of your life with joy! I hope that you will be happy and let it show. I hope that you will smile, and laugh, and not take yourself or anyone else too seriously.

I hope that you will learn. I hope that you will cram all of the knowledge, and education, and skill into that beautiful brain of yours. Push it in. Pump it in. Fit in as much as you can because some day, and it probably seems far away now but will come so much sooner than you anticipate, you will have the opportunity to pass on that knowledge, and wisdom, and learning to others. I am not JUST talking about being a mother. I am talking about bringing good and wholeness to others because you have taken the time to study them out. You can bring them to the world.

You are in a beautiful budding, buzzing time of life. You have SO MUCH in front of you! Don’t look back. Look forward with hope, and awe, and readiness. Grab on to your future with your hands, your feet, and your teeth. Go with it. Grow with it. And YOU will become YOU. The woman you were always meant to be!

XX, Megan

Mom’s Guide to Moab


We got back from Moab yesterday and you should see the state of my house this moment. MESS!!!! Pure gear drop. It was such a great trip with our friends, the Sorensens, we seriously can’t wait to go back to Moab again! Or see the Sorensens again for that matter, here’s to Alaska 2017!

The day we returned I received a text from a good friend telling me that she and her family were headed to Moab over Memorial Day weekend and that they were looking for recommendations. It was time. I needed to put together a play-by-play for a Mom’s Guide to Moab.

Everything was still so fresh in my mind. On top of that, our little family of four has done Moab in practically every season with growing kiddos for almost five years now. This was the perfect opportunity to put all this information out there.

Don’t forget to check out my Camping with Kids article, either! We spent two nights tent camping this time around, and two nights in a hotel. We camped at Big Bend campground along Highway 128. It was a great mix of getting out there and getting some AC at the end of our long days.

This particular trip to Moab was hatched back in March when Mel and I met in Scottsdale, AZ. We knew this would be the perfect reunion for our kids. A happy-happy-joy-joy on the red rock. The result could not have been more wonderful. Here’s how we managed Moab with 5 kids, ages 7 and under.


First, we stuck to a routine of sorts during our stay. We got up bright and early every morning, ate breakfast and decided on a hike we would do that day. We would drive out to our hike, hit the trail, and then return to our car and head to an alternate location for lunch. This alone enabled us to see a lot more of Moab than we otherwise would have.

After lunch we let the kids roam free for about an hour. It was good to give them this free-play. Most days this meant that they were lizard hunting. Sometimes it meant they were climbing on some bouldering spots we came across, sometimes we simply went to the city park. Keeping it simple means winning with kids 9 times out of 10.

Once we’d had some time to eat and play, we headed over to swim at the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center. Yes, we swam EVERY DAY. We even had a pool at the hotel, but still went to the Rec for swimming cause the pool is AWESOME!! It was simply the best to cool off from 2-4 p.m. or 3-5 p.m., then hit the showers before dinner. Plus, ice cream every night, how can you beat that as a kid?!?!

Here are some of our favorite HIKES to do with kiddos in the red rock, followed by some great actives in town, and last some food recommendations:

Arches National Park**

Let me say that we spent two out of three days in Arches. There is always more to see, and you could seriously spend your ENTIRE time here. We still have yet to hit every arch, and we have been there upwards of 10 times. Of course, we have favorites that we return to again and again, and there are definitely hikes that are still far beyond the capacity of my kids.

Balanced Rock: This is the easiest sight to view in the park. It is about 7 miles into the park. Parking lot is on the right. You walk up. You jump around. You chase lizards. You walk back. IMPORTANT NOTE: Across the road from Balanced rock is a nice little place to have lunch, or use the restroom. The road begins as pavement, but quickly turns to gravel, nothing too harry. We hit this spot almost every time we are in the park to either go potty or eat lunch. They have picnic tables both covered and uncovered.


Sand Dune Arch: This is another easy park the car, walk up the path, and you have ARRIVED hike! About 16 miles into the park. Parking lot is on the right. Beware the sand!!!! Some people don’t care, some people, like me, loath sand. My kids throw it on themselves and everyone else. Hence we have only gone to this arch once.

Skyline Arch: This is another quick walk to an awesome sight! (Also visible from the road.) 17 miles from the entrance. Skyline also has the distinction of being an Arch that has cracked during human record in the park. Apparently, in November 1940 a huge chunk fell out of it, doubling its size!!

North and South Window and Turret Arch: This is a fun, easy walk, that is a little longer than going to see Balanced Rock or Sand Dune Arch. 11.5 miles into the park. You can also easily get to Turret Arch, and Double Arch from this parking lot. You can climb right up to the North Window, get right underneath it. Climb behind it (for older kids or with adult supervision), and head around on the primitive trail to get a good view of both windows.

Delicate Arch Overlook: This is the trail we took this past trip to view Delicate Arch. This trail is EASY! It does have some uphill climbs, but it is short and sweet, and you quickly come to a viewpoint of Delicate Arch. We had a three-year-old with us this past trip, and with five kids and two moms we just didn’t want to do the Delicate Arch trail.

That said, I think this overlook is a bit of a disappointment. You get a good look at the arch, but you can see all of the people who have made the trek to the arch itself, and I was bummed we didn’t. Here again, you have to look at the hikers you have with you! If you know that your children will be hot and tired out quickly, this is a good alternative.

Landscape Arch: This is another easy hike. I think it is .8 of a mile in and then .8 back (obviously). The great thing about Landscape Arch is that it is big and bold. This arch also boasts a crumble in recent history when a huge boulder sheared off in 1991. Double O Arch is right next door, and if you’re feeling brave you can do the other arches on the primitive trail in the Devil’s Garden. The trail forms a loop. But with kids, the out and back is perfect. Another great, easy hike for a family.


Delicate Arch: This trail is actually one of the hardest in the Park, in my opinion. It is long, steep in places, and there is a place at the end that has a sheer cliff on one side. That said, there is no place that is unsafe.

You should have no fear taking kids here, as there are plenty of people who make it there and back who will be far more taxed than you or your children will be. Most children five and older would be fine on Delicate Arch and children four-years-old and younger really can manage you simply have to take your time, go in the morning when it is cool, and bring plenty of water (and snacks if you kids are like mine:).

The point is, this trail is not THAT hard. It is made more difficult by the amount of people who hike it. The fact that there are some “tricky” sections, and the heat can be a real limiting factor. My suggestion is to get to the trailhead by 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. if you can. (You will also then avoid the long lines at the entrance station.**)


Other Great Hikes

Corona Arch: Highway 279. I love this hike. It is 1.5 miles in to the arch, so 3 miles roundtrip. The view of Corona Arch is AWESOME. The trail is easy to follow. There are some corded sections, but honestly nothing that kids can’t do. The trailhead is 10 miles up 279 almost to the mile, and you can easily google directions to this arch.

Negro Bill Canyon: Highway 128. 2 miles in 4 miles round trip, this is a great hike if the weather is unforgivingly hot. Give yourself 4 hours or more to complete this trail. When you come to the first light in town, take a left and you will drive 3 miles and come to the Negro Bill Trailhead. The parking lot is on the right side of the road.

Morning Glory Natural Bridge is located at the end of the second side canyon on the right. The trail forks just below this canyon. Follow the trail to the right, go across the stream, and head up the steep slope. Morning Glory Bridge is located at the end of the trail about 0.5 miles up the canyon from the stream.


Fisher Towers: Highway 128. On the same highway you take to get to Negro Bill Canyon, if you keep going 15 more miles or so you will come to Fisher Towers. This is a beautiful place to hike or camp. You don’t have to have an particular route in mind. Simply take a wander through these rock rills. This is also a destination for climbers.

Dead Horse Point State Park: We love to take in the views at Dead Horse Point. There is nothing more breathtaking than looking down on the Colorado River as it meanders through those tiered red canyons. NOTE: there is an additional cost to go to Dead Horse Point State Park. Even if you have a National Parks Pass, this park is NOT covered.


In Town

Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center: The best thing that ever happened to us is finding the Moab Rec. Just google map your way here. The pool is fantastic, shower facilities are available, and the playground next door is the perfect after-swim activity. There is also a skate park on the grounds. When you need to cool off after a long day of sun-drenched activities this is the place to do it!



Moab Diner: BEST ICE CREAM! We stopped in at Moab Diner for ICE CREAM after two dinners. That’s how good we thought it was! Their service was FAST. They got our ice cream to us in a SNAP!!

Jailhouse Cafe: Jailhouse has the best Eggs Benedict in town by far! Their other breakfast fare is not far behind and they rate as my favorite classic breakfast spot on main. You better check their hours carefully when you get in to town because we’ve shown up a few times and they were already closed for the day.

Eklectica: My favorite eating spot in all of Moab is Eklectica. A mix of killer breakfast burritos, the most wonderful huevos rancheros I’ve ever eaten, super salads, and to-die-for baked goods. Their service is… chill. But the food is amazing, and my boys ask for a cinnamon roll from here every time we’re in town.

Pasta Jays: I would say that this is the best Itallian in town. We eat here almost every time we go to Moab. Decent prices, and I think their food is much better tasting than Zax’s. (But Zax has pizza by the slice, see below.)

Zax: Pizza by the slice is the highlight of this diner. I’ll be honest, the pizza is not the best I’ve ever had. But it was good, and the kids loved being able to pick out their pizza by the slice. $1.50 per slice, some ate 1 piece, some ate 3!!! Prices are reasonable. (BTW: Nothing else comes with the pizza, so if you have super hungry kids it might be best just to order an entire pizza and a bunch of other sides!)

Twisted Sister: This local food spot has some really unique and delicious dishes. We’ve had some of the most amazing homemade soups here. If you are looking for something a little more off-beat, but always on point in the flavor department, this is the place. And for some reason our kids think that their menu is the best in town.

Peace Tree: If you are looking for a fresh delicious salad this is the place. They have a killer beet salad, and their other salad offerings are so good. This place is a little on the pricier side.

The Spoke: This diner is new in town, but has really good food. The fish and chips are delicious! It is on the pricier side, but they do have good all-American fare, and I can’t wait to try the Fried Mac-and-Cheese Balls with my husband. They sound horribly, calorically delicious!!

Milt’s: BEST BURGER. The best burger in town is at Milt’s. We have actually never been there, but their reviews online are off of the charts. You will have to Google Map this one, because it is off of the main drag. But I am willing to bet that the burgers here are WAY better than the ones at Eddie McStiff’s or The Moab Brewery.

Moab Brewery: Okay, so here’s the truth, my husband loves the Moab Brewery. I do NOT love it as much. I think the food is marginal at best, and overpriced. They DO HAVE delicious gelato. But that is the only reason I would ever send anyone there. The pizza place in the strip mall next door isn’t too bad, either.


Like all good things, eventually our trip had to come to an end. This is what five wonderful days in Moab will get you– a lung-crushing group hug and memories to last a lifetime! ❤ Yes the fifth member of our kids’ party is in there somewhere, you can see the tippy top of his head if you look closely!

I’d love to hear any of your questions, comments, or further recommendations below! Have a Fantastic Friday, and a Fabulous Weekend!!!

XX, Megan

**A NOTE ABOUT LINES: If you’ve heard about the ridiculously long lines at the Arches National Park Entrance you are not being lied to. Lines at the Park Entrance are NO JOKE!! We showed up there on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. to pick up souvenirs from the Visitor’s Center before heading home. We were third in line to enter the park. By the time we left at 9:30 a.m. the line stretched all the way back to Highway 191. Moral of the story: GET THERE EARLY. You’ll avoid the lines, you’ll avoid the heat.

Night: It is also worth noting that it is beautiful to visit Arches NP just before dusk. The heat of the day will be lingering, not scorching. The lines at the entrance tend to be smaller, and you can get some awesome moonrise or moonset or sunset views surrounded by the grandeur of the Red Rock castles and windows. Simply sublime.

Keepin’ it Weird: Austin, TX


The Turkey Lobbyist’s Travel Guide to Austin, TX (Alternative Title)

Okay, so this post is a LONG one. But if you want the short version, I’ll give it to you quick and dirty. Austin is AWESOME!

The food was superb– I am still dreaming about it. The music scene is alive–it pours on to 6th Street with rich abandon. The bar crowd is uproarious– apparently a flaming Dr. Pepper is the most famous Austin offering. The suburbs of those rolling green hills are well manicured– the wedding we attended was beautiful. The hipsters are myriad– outnumbered only by the food trucks. The State Capital is gorgeous– dwarfed only by Willie Nelson and he’s not an Austinite, just a Texan.

Did I mention the food?!?

As I’ve said before, I often have several working titles for each post. But this alternative is my favorite by far. And true.The alternative title is true! We got a kick-bottom tour of Austin from a friend who really is a lobbyist for turkeys. Or is it Turkey? Anyway, he’s a lobbyist.

Our reason for visiting Austin, other than hearing one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE musicians, Bob Schneider, was to attend the wedding of some dear friends. Bob, however, was not to be found. He happened to be playing in Greenville, or Corpus Christi, or Fort Worth, I don’t remember. Long story short, the King of Austin wasn’t in the Capital City. A bummer, not a deal breaker.

Now to suss out the connection to the turkey lobbyist. The wedding of this particular friend dates back to our days in Washington D.C. The city tour guide bloomed out of our long-ago ties to that rat pack. Virginia based DINKS on the cusp of political stardom, Windy-city freelance writers formerly of Entrepreneur, tech-startup geeks with computer screen gleams in their eye, and coruscating consultants with Price-Waterhouse in their resumes.

In all reality, we can only hold the turkey lobbyist responsible for the viewing of the Flaming Dr. Pepper. As well as the fantastic live music at The Continental. For bulk of this travel diary we toured on our own.

Let’s begin our tour with food, shall we? Because that’s where this tour truly began. And ended, for that matter. An Austin City sandwich.

IMG_4648Bouldin Creek Cafe

That’s where it all started. But not just any sandwich. A VEGAN BARBECUE sandwich called the McFib (see above) at a local vegan hot-spot called Bouldin Creek Cafe. Where the beef was as absent as a shower on the locals.

Let’s not disparage others’ views of personal hygiene. This place was the BOMB. Where else in the world can you get BARBECUE that’s VEGAN, and walk away feeling that you have CHECKED the barbecue box off your Austin City Must-See List?

If you are a vegetarian looking for a mouth riot, or a simply a tourist looking for superb food fare, Bouldin is THE PLACE! If you order the McFib and a Wanna BLT, along with a Raspberry Sour, and pick up a vegan brownie on the way out and you’ll have recreated our meal at Bouldin.

Mellow Johnny’s

If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know that my husband and I cycle. He’s a cyclist, and I’m a bike rider. Talk to any roadie to be instructed in the difference between these bicycling breeds. Regardless of your spin on bikes, Mellow Johnny’s is an Austin Must-See.

The shop is owned by Lance Armstrong. Now we’ve opened up another interesting discussion point, but here again, regardless of your views on Armstrong, the shop is the bees knees! Almost as good as our home town shop in Heber Valley 😉

With bikes as far as the eye can see. Enough swag to sink a small container ship, and internationally renowned pro-performace training at Pedal Hard Training in the basement. Plus you get to see all 7 Yellow Jersey’s on display. What’s the line, “they can’t take that away from me“? Wow! Just WOW!

More Food

If you thought I was finished with food, you’d be mistaken. We woke the next morning with time to kill before the wedding and wandered over to the local Whole Foods Market for one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Here’s my plug for globalism. Isn’t it great to know that you can get that same breakfast sandwich ANYWHERE? I mean, soon, they’ll have one in Italy. #amiright ?

Not only did I pound that breakfast sandwich on ciabatta bread, I treated myself to a post-breakfast croissant. You might be wondering if the croissant constituted it’s own breakfast, and you would be absolutely right if I didn’t abide by the zero calorie vacation philosophy.

Oh, you didn’t know? Food on vacation contains zero calories. Thereby allowing you to consume as much as you’d like! Try it next time. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Congress Avenue Bridge Bats

This experience was so very Gotham like I don’t know how Austin has managed to keep a Bat Light out of its skyline. Maybe in some bat cave recess of my brain I had heard about this nightly bat exodus from under Congress Avenue Bridge, but we really ended up there to meet up with friends to explore the city.

It was an incredible sight. Bat.con international boasts, “Every summer night, hundreds of people gather to see the world’s largest urban bat colony emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas. These 1.5 million bats are fun to watch, but they’re also making our world a better place to live.”

It’s all about bugs, people. Bats eat bugs. Bugs in the 10,000 to 20,000 pounds-per-night range. No wonder Austin’s skyline was so pristine. I don’t know what more to say about this quirky, off-beat, touristy sighting, but I’m glad we got to view the stream of bats exiting the bridge in a furry that looked more like a rushing plume of black cinders than an dusk to dawn feeding frenzy.



We went to Austin with the understanding that it is the Live Music Capital of the World, and the offerings did not disappoint. When you’re walking down 6th street and every pub, bar, and eatery has music rippling out onto the street, you know you’ve hit Live-band gold.

We wended our way down the entire length of 6th street and our turkey lobbyist gave us gems and tid-bits of history about some of the joints. Antone’s where Stevie Ray Vaughn was discovered. Frequented by the likes of Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles himself, and our personal fav Bob Schneider plays there, as well.

We took in the tunes of the 24th Street Wailers at The Continental Club. A rock n’ roll n’ group with a killer lead singer/drummer named Lindsay Beaver. Stage name? Perhaps. But their music was jumping it was jiving, it was causing crowds to get of their arses and dance! I loved every minute of the show.


This subject is out of my realm. If you need an in-person guide to bars in Austin, TX, my recommendation is to ask your local turkey lobbyist.


On our last day in Austin we went in search of our final sandwich, a breakfast sandwich. I’d heard-tell of Hillside Farmacy on the inter webs. I honestly don’t know if it was a friend, or Instagram, or another blog, but my husband was game so we packed our bags and headed out for our final Austin food fare.

He ordered the Fried Egg Sandwich. I ordered the Sunny Coast Croissant, add avocado and eggs, and we were yummming and ummmmmmming all the way through the meal. Somehow I finished my mountainous sandwich and wanted MORE. I really, really wanted one last chocolate croissant. So that is what we did. We ate MORE.

Second Breakfasts

I want to begin this vignette with the statement “Easy Tiger is the best bakery in Austin, TX.” But with no more background than a two day quickie to back me up, I’m pretty sure I’m no authority.

Oh, whatever. Easy Tiger is the best bakery in Austin. After the delicious offering at Hillside Farmacy it was time to get my zero calorie second breakfast on! We actually asked the waiter at Hillside for his recommendation of the “Best Chocolate Croissant in Austin”. He sent us to Easy Tiger, so I’m going use his authority in this matter.

That recommendation and my tastebuds do not lie! That chocolate croissant was flaky-pasterie-perfection heaven. If my gut didn’t have such a low tolerance for breads these days, I’d have ordered seven to take home with me on the spot!

In lieu of the croissants I wanted to pack in my carry-on but thought better, we got a couple loaves of their artisan bread– sour dough and an Italian loaf. Gifts for family and friends who had cared for our kiddos and puppy while we were away. It was the perfect taste of Austin to pass on.


If you are looking for a city that delights, an city that excites, a city that has a lot to offer midst the rolling green of Texas hill country, Austin is IT! I left wanting more. We’d go back in a heartbeat, and maybe we’ll make this a stop on a winter getaway sometime. I hope your Friday is as flavorful as all of Austin. Have a fabulous day, and a savory weekend.

XX, Megan

4 Lessons I Learned from Failure


Image by Pretty Jeff

What happens when we fail?

When the promotion we want at work falls through, the best grade in the class does’t happen, the house of your dreams get snatched up off of the market, the paycheck we think we are worth doesn’t get cut, the business we hoped to grow starves, the acceptance to the school we desire doesn’t come, the medal we thought we would win slips out of our hands, the job we think we are accepting isn’t offered?

 As it turns out, sometimes we can learn a lot.

Failure. That word doesn’t have a very nice ring to it. Rightly so, I suppose, as the connotations of failure inherently bring displeasure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, even heartache.

No, we don’t often sit around and talk about failure around the dinner table. Failure isn’t generally a casual conversation piece. More often than not we’d rather discuss failure’s antithesis– success.

This is also understandable, as miring oneself in the low that often comes after experiencing the bad news, defeat, or let-down of failure isn’t a very pleasant venture either.

Maybe it’s best for me to be as candid as possible as I write this. In fact, I’ll just come out and say it. I failed. I applied for a job this past month. I felt as though I was a qualified, dynamic, enthusiastic, well-prepared candidate. That I brought not only a strong resume to the table, but also a set of personal qualities that aligned brilliantly with this position.

The precursor to this story is that I had already been passed up for this job a year ago. I felt as though applying again, showing up with eager readiness to interview again, emphasizing my desire to succeed in this position, and then being called back for a second interview meant that I had not only shown I was qualified for this position, I felt that it showed I was sticking my neck out there bravely saying, “Yes! I not only want this job, I am committed to it. Here I am again!!” I thought I would get the job.

So when I heard the voice on the other end of the phone saying, “Well… I have some bad news…” It felt exponentially worse this time around than it did last time! And I even laugh as I write that last sentence because it felt pretty bad to be passed over the first time. Let alone twice.

Now there are reasons for the pass. I also understand that. I am over under-qualified. Have any of you ever been there? But the main takeaway from this interview process is that I am under-qualified. So no one think that I am berating myself too harshly for this, or view this failure as a sign of who I am as a person. Although it really is difficult not to view failure as a personal show-and-tell. Yes, it is simply hard not to take failure personally.

Truth. I failed. Again. Yes, not once, but twice. Nothing about that felt good.

But in the midst of this failure (because I can assure that I am still standing in the middle of it right now), I learned some very important, very valuable, even vital lessons. But let’s not forget the proverbial rubble I am looking around at. Those toppled castles in my head– the way things would have looked if I had gotten the job.

The way we would have negotiated carpool for the boys. The way meal planning and prepping, and execution would have changed. The energy level I’d need to adapt to for full-time work and full-time parenting. The way planning, and prepping, and presenting as part of my new job would have looked every day. I asked myself how certain home duties would be handled, and would we be able to get away for vacation, and how could I best stay connected as a mother and wife while being a full-time worker, and on and on and on…

All of that de-materialized in an instant.

What was I left with?

It was here in the newly open space of my failure that it began to serve me. This is where my failure helped me grow.


1. Your people are your people no matter your success or failure.

I wanted to write about this even during my not-knowing-if-I-got the job phase. Because the support, excitement, well-wishes, championing, enthusiasm, and genuine care for myself and my family were so palpable, so felt, so overwhelming, and so sustaining.

In fact, the day before my second interview I sat in my car outside my four-year-old sons’ preschool and had myself a really good cry. I cried because I felt so vulnerable as a stay-at-home-mom trying to re-enter the work force. I cried because I hated not knowing what the answer would be in a few days time about this job. But mostly, I cried because I was so touched by the love and support of my family and friends.

I cried at the text messages that filled my message inbox sending prayer, good luck, good karma, knock-em-dead, rock-n-roll, and faith in my abilities as a person. I cried because this outpouring had literally, physically uplifted me. I felt as though I could conquer the world, and I hadn’t even made it through the presentation portion of my interview.

I was touched that my mom had driven an hour each way to my house to help me prepare my presentation, that my friends would come over at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night (that’s late for folks with kids, way past bed-time 😉 ) to listen to my presentation and give me feedback and constructive criticism, that my husband had full faith in me, and believed in me no matter the outcome of the next days’ interview.

The gratitude washed over me so STRONGLY, so FULLY, that I was clean from fear. I was ready to face anything, and I swore that I would write about this experience as soon as I got the chance. I was totally overcome by the expressions of pure love from my people, my tribe. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

2. Failure can solidify your strengths.

When I left that second interview, I know that I had given my all, my best effort. I was pleased with what I had offered the panel. Of course, at that time, I didn’t know that I wasn’t going to succeed, that the job wasn’t going to be mine.

But one thing that giving that presentation allowed me was to see that I was ready for the job, even if I wasn’t selected. I was confident in my performance, and I don’t mean confident in an over-inflated or heady way. I knew that I had shown my skill, my abilities, my strength to present real-time.

Without going into greater detail, I found that I had proved to myself that I was prepared to take the job, to do my best, and to fly. I was prepared to succeed. Not only had I shown those strengths to the interview panel, I had shown them to myself.

Herein is the unique lesson that failure afforded me. Rather than showing me that I didn’t have what it takes/took, I found that I possessed exactly what I had come to highlight. I was encouraged and enlightened, and for that, this failure possesses a certain measure of success.

3. Failure can help you to understand your weaknesses.

Not surprisingly, failure also allowed me to see some of my weaknesses. I realized through failing that I have a hard time taking risks. I have known this about myself for some time. I simply didn’t realize how risk averse I was until I was turned down a second time for a job that I felt was perfectly suited to me. I realized then that perhaps I hadn’t put myself out there into the world enough.

I realized that sometimes it is hard for me to think outside of the box, meaning, I had ONE possible outcome for this job– that I would be the person given the job. I’m not saying that it was bad that I didn’t think about being passed up for this employment opportunity as an option. I’ve probably always erred on the side of hopeful optimism, but I definitely put all further thoughts of “what if this doesn’t happen” completely aside. Consequently, I think failing may have felt even harder than I’d anticipated!

On top of that, I hadn’t put together a coherent plan B for myself, and I count that as a weakness. So great, that I see myself as a complete success, almost immune to failure. But that didn’t serve me well at the other end of this process. In the future, I think it best to have a direct alternative, something you can go after in the face of let-down.

4. Through failure– opportunity opens again.

This lesson is one of the most important lessons of all. When we fail, the incredible thing is that we then have the unique chance to view failure as a net negative, or we have the opportunity to see that failure may have closed one door, but many, many other doors have become open to us or remained open to us.

In fact, opportunity is WIDE OPEN in the face of failure. We simply have to step up to the realization that the forward motion may not be in the direction that we originally anticipated. We will have to reexamine our goals, our desires, our hopes, our dreams. That can be a daunting, even heavy challenge. But recognize that you can do hard things.

Going after this job was hard. Interviewing for the job was hard. Mentally writing the story of my success was hard. The reality that I had been passed up again was hard. Looking for future opportunities has been hard, but I am seeing now that I have been given another chance. A chance to ask some questions about what I want. A chance to look for answers to my employment status. In failure, I have experienced opportunity. What more could I ask for?

A job, I guess.

The last thing that I have taken away from my failure is an acute awareness of my blessings, my haves, my privileged situation. I am the luckiest. I have had insulation from this fall merely by the luck of my situation. I am beyond blessed, and for that I am also extremely grateful.

XX, Megan


Sewing The 20 Minute Murse


As much as I drive the content here on Refined + Rugged, in the activity department there are two other power players who have some say-so in what I post here on the site.

Case in point– The 20 Minute Murse. My oldest asked me months ago, “Mom, I really want to learn how to sew. Can we sew something together?” I won’t go into all the ins and outs of my sewing history (or why I don’t really love to sew), but his desire didn’t end there.

He started to talk about sewing a lot. Like every other day. Now I realize that this was also a mild form of manipulation. My kiddos are smart. They know that each of them has a soft spot in their parents’ hearts. So it probably didn’t come as a surprise to my little P when I told him I would borrow a sewing machine and we would do a project together.

I scanned the inter-webs for kid friendly sewing projects and settled on this one from Purl Soho, which ROCKS by the way!! The instructions are easy to understand, the sewing is relatively simple, and I have to admit that the time element (20 minutes) really had me going!

Flash forward to the fabric center of a certain Big Box Store on a Saturday. The boys took less than 2 minutes to choose their fabric and the ribbon for the handles. I was jonesed because the project seemed to be coming together smoothly already. A sewing machine from my dear friend was waiting for us at home– bobbin wound, needle raised, foot up– we were ready.

I asked one of the sales associates if  there was someone who would come over to cut our fabric. We waited for 20 minutes and no one came. I searched out another sales associate in an adjoining isle and asked if they could cut some fabric. They also said they would put out a page on their headset.

10 minutes later, no fabric person. No person period. I did hear an all call over the intercom for a clean-up on the toy isle. Toys were right next to fabric, so I craned my neck in that direction, hoping to catch someone’s eye who would help us. Walking toward a gathering group of salespersons, I saw the puddle of bubble soap on the floor. No less than seven– that’s 7 people showed up to clean up the bubbles.

Still no one came over to help us with fabric. I asked another sales associate if they could help me with some fabric, and she said, “Oh, I heard the page. No one came?” “NO.” I replied flatly. “I’ll make another call,” she replied.

Another 5 minutes passed. No human arrived to cut our fabric. I pulled the scissors down from the shelf. Cut off half a yard of fabric, and walked, with the original bolts of fabric to the checkout stand. There it took the sales associate ANOTHER 15 minutes to find someone  to go to the back of the store and properly price the fabric. The line extended and people looked sufficiently annoyed behind me.

The moral of this story is: if it takes you more than 50 minutes to GET THE FABRIC you’d like to use for this project, it will take you MUCH longer than 20 minutes to accomplish this tote. I wish you the best of luck at whichever fabric counter you encounter! 🙂

Instructions to this fabulous tote bag are detailed below. Happy Friday! And happy sewing to you all!!!!

XX, Megan


For one tote bag you will need:

1/2 Yard of fabric

2 yards of cotton webbing or ribbon

Cotton thread to match your tote fabric


Measure your fabric to 16 inches tall and 14 inches wide. You can make your fabric into two panels or you can fold your fabric in half (as I did) to eliminate a seam.

Pin the handle pieces to the top RAW EDGE of the right side of each panel 3-inches from the sides. (Make sure you pin the handles to the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric, because you are then going to turn the handles down and eventually sew the fabric to fabric making the top of your bag much stronger.)

The raw edges of the handles should match up with the raw edge of the top of the panel so the handles will be facing down as shown in the picture above. Make sure the handles aren’t twisted.


Do a zig-zag stich across the top of the entire bag, sewing each handle to the fabric. Then turn the fabric down 1 and a 1/2 inches and sew two seams– one along the top and the bottom of that one-and-a-half inch band. 1/4 inch from the top and 1/4 inch from the bottom along each top.

Remember you should have two tops at this point, and if you are a sewing dunce like me, remember not to sew them together!!! Plus, if any of this is confusing, which is a very realistic proposition, Purl Soho has MUCH BETTER directions for this entire process!!)

Now you are ready to sew the sides of your bag! Make sure right side faces right side on the INSIDE of your bag. Then pin the edges of your bag in 1/2 inch increments. Then go to town! This part was fun, and Little P really was able to sew the entire outside seam of his bag.


Ta-DA! The finished project. I really ended up doing most of the work for my 4-year-old. We had an incident with the sewing pedal that caused me to re-evaluate his readiness to use a sewing machine. But, of course, you will know your child better than I. I read several blog posts where moms had their children using a sewing machine as young as three– yes 3!! If you do this project with your wee ones, I’d love to hear about and see your results!