You Should Be Here

If you’ve been keeping track of the Sunday Book Club schedule – wait, what, you’re not!?
It’s easy! Click the FOLLOW button & get emails when I add new posts. Specifically for Sunday Book Club, at the end of the post I will list what book will be reviewed next & when the post will be published.
If you Follow along, you’ll know today was supposed to be the review for “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker. However, April 3rd is a sad yet important day in my family, & I felt like a Book Review wouldn’t be appropriate, so I moved it to April 17th.
I generally try to keep this blog as professional as possible, but in the spirit of revamping the blog & writing about some new things, I’ve decided to do a little free write on this super personal topic. This isn’t meant to be particularly enlightened or touching, I’m just sharing my thoughts & below is a video with some fun pictures of my family.

April 3rd, 1998 is the day my dad passed away. April 5th is my Grandpa’s birthday, but he passed away April 13th, 2012. Before that, my Yaya (Greek for Grandma) passed away in 2010. I’m not telling you this to make you sad or pity me. These are just the cold hard facts. That’s one of the shitty thing about death. It’s cold & hard & the people it took away from me were anything but – well, in my mind at least.

I was 7 when my dad passed away from cancer. Most of what I know about him are hand me down stories from my family, which I’m blessed to have because there are some people that know nothing about their parents. I’ve been told I’m a LOT like him, which always amuses people & me, to a certain extent, because obviously we didn’t have a lot of time together. It’s not that I’m unhappy to be like my dad, I just wish I understood him a little better. It’s hard to hear stories about someone & never really hear their side of things. Have you heard about Fathers that participate in fake weddings for their young daughters because they know they’re dying & won’t be there for the real thing? Honestly, I find it to be a bit creepy, but I understand the intent. The family is prepping for a huge moment that Dad should be there for. I’ve heard other stories of people recording videos or writing letters to inspire those they leave behind – my dad didn’t do any of that for me. For several years after his passing I searched our house hoping that tucked away in a drawer or hidden in a book, there was something for me – something to explain life from his point of view or offer some kind of grown up advice, but I never found anything.

I eventually made my peace with not finding any sort of wisdom left behind from my dad because I still had my grandparents. Sure, my birthdays had an empty chair that my dad should be at, but after awhile it just became a fact of life that I learned to deal with. Of course there were awkward moments at dance recitals when other girls would ask where my dad was, but most of the time I would have the biggest group of supporters at any event because my whole family would show up. I’ve never considered until this moment if they all came to genuinely show support or if my grandparents coerced them into coming in some way to help ease the sting I may have felt from knowing my dad should be there. Yeah, my dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle someday, but Grandpa will fulfill that duty, is how I rationalized things to myself. Then my grandparents passed away.

It didn’t happen like “The Notebook”, a couple passing away in each other’s arms at the same moment, but they passed close enough to each other that it made my head spin & my whole life was completely different in what felt like the blink of an eye. How did this happen!? I had planned my whole future around the fact that they were going to be there for all those important moments in my adult life. We would all share a cry that my dad couldn’t be there in person to see the person I’d grown up to be & then we’d hug & laugh because we’re crying at an important event, but that’s just what our family does. Now, there’s 3 empty chairs at my birthday parties, 3 empty chairs at my college graduation, & no one to walk me down the aisle at my future wedding, although I know my mom is vying for the job…but maybe I should find a boyfriend first, haha!

In the relatively short time it’s been since my grandparents have passed away, so much has changed. The more life changes, the more complicated things become, especially in regards to my move to Arizona, the more I find myself saying, “You should be here” about my three guardian angels. The song featured in the video below, “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindell brings me to tears almost each & every time I hear it because it so perfectly hits the nail on the head of how I’ve been feeling lately. I know my family is watching over me & I’m so thankful to have known them & learned from them while I was able to. All I can do at this point is move forward with the lessons they taught me & try my best to do them proud! I hope you enjoy the video below, these are some of my favorite pictures of my dad & grandparents. I tried to get pictures of JUST us to follow the theme of the post but Mom snuck in there a few times, don’t worry, she’s doing just fine!

To sum them up…
– Dad is the epitome of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”. He taught me that it’s never to late to make a change & start living a life you’re proud of.
– Yaya taught me to do all things with love. She was an extremely passionate woman that lived every day to the fullest. She loved her friends, her family, & her life. As a grown up, I now see a little deeper under her surface, but if I could ever muster even one ounce of the vim & vigor she had for life & making the best of things, it would be a miracle, haha!
– Grandpa taught me to always eat the JELLO. When I was 5, Yaya was teaching me how to make JELLO. Unfortunately I didn’t realize you had to stir the bottom of the bowl to mix all the ingredients so the JELLO set with crusty pieces of mix stuck to the bottom. We all dug in eagerly & immediately dropped our spoons when it began to scratch our throats. I was disappointed in myself, but Grandpa kept eating away happily telling me he preferred JELLO with a texture like that. No joke, FOR YEARS!!!! I believed him. I would say it’s only been since he’s passed away & I’ve reminisced on that story as an adult that I realized, holy crap, he pretended to like it so I didn’t feel bad. So now I know, & honestly this is something I still struggle with, but I try to acknowledge the effort & intention that goes into something rather than the end result.

Nothing told here today is meant to discredit any of the other wonderful family & friends that helped raise me & have supported me throughout my life. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me thus far & look forward to seeing you at my future wedding/baby shower/Grad School Graduation – whatever comes my way! This post was just meant to address some thoughts I’ve currently been struggling with during my time in Arizona & the fact that today is the anniversary of my dad’s passing, with other anniversaries coming up quickly. Death is so different for everyone & there are a million other things I could say about it, but that’s all for now. If you have anything you’d like to add or you enjoyed this post in particular & would like to see more like this, please let me know in the comments below!

Remember, regularly scheduled Book Reviews will resume on Sunday, April 17th! I’m hoping to have another Try This! posted on Thursday – but you’ll have to stay tuned. Please click the FOLLOW button to become an email subscriber & be notified instantly when new Posts go up! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Vlog #6 – 5 Maui Must Do’s!

Aloha!!!
Today I’m going to be sharing with you a short, silly, vlog I filmed while in Maui a few months ago. I was going to make this a multi-part video covering every activity of the trip, but I just couldn’t bring myself to film every day. Wouldn’t you all get tired of just watching me lounge around? Haha!
I’ve been to Maui several times, it’s one of my favorite vacation spots! With that being said, there are a lot of activities I’ve done there but won’t get into because I didn’t partake in them on this most recent trip. If you’re at all interested in adventure, surfing, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, & swimming with manta rays are all AMAZING. I also didn’t feel the need to get into great detail about every beach you should visit because that’s a pretty standard activity, 99% of the beaches are epic & there is a ton of info available online & on the island.
For this vlog, I narrowed my footage down to 5 Maui Must Do’s/Travel Tips. However, of course I encourage you to hike/kayak/helicopter tour – whatever will make your trip amazing! Maui is a magical spot & you really can’t go wrong with anything you choose to do.
Click on the video to watch the vlog & please look below for my 5 Must Do’s/Travel Tips!

Must Do #1: Costco
Costco is 100% the way to go! If you can go to Costco right away, do it! You will be hungry when you get off the plane & won’t want to waste time grocery shopping later. It is a tradition for all my family members that vacation in Maui to stop at Costco by the airport before heading to the hotel. As you saw in the vlog, stopping by Costco is also a great time waster before checking into your hotel. Of course it’s always a good idea to get big dinner items, like ribs/chicken/veggies to grill, especially if you’re with a group. However, don’t ignore snacks, especially portable ones. A big part of your time in Maui will (hopefully!) be spent outside of your room & having snacks in the car or on the beach are great. Also, spending a lot of time in the sun & water can tire you out & cause you to get hungrier, faster, so you won’t want to wait to eat back at the hotel. Even if you intend to chill by the hotel pool your entire trip, you will want to purchase your own food rather than constantly rely on room service or hotel restaurants because that can get expensive. Again, portable snacks are a great idea in this situation as well so you’re not constantly having to go back to your room when your tummy starts rumbling.

Must Do #2: Investigate the Hotel/Room – Ka’anapali Beach Club
Okay, yes, part of this is a shameless plug to showcase my family timeshare, the Ka’anapali Beach Club – if you ever want to stay there, let me know! Also, this Tip is practical for a couple reasons. After Costco, checking into/investigating your hotel situation is a great idea. It’s always wise to familiarize yourself with the area & the amenities your property offers you. Concierges will have all the inside scoop to add activities & memories to your trip! Some activities only take place during certain times or weather conditions, so it’s wise to try to book things in advance. It sounds like simple logic, but sometimes people get “vacation brain” & don’t think about things like this. Also, it’s key to check out your room ASAP  to make sure it’s safe & clean. Let’s say you head right to the beach then come back to your hotel expecting to find a comfortable place to shower/sleep, but the hotel isn’t what you expected. Now it’s dark, you’re driving around in an unfamiliar area, wet & sandy, trying to find suitable accommodations. If you discover a problem right away, it can be handled right away! Also, while I’ve never had a safety problem in Maui, it’s generally never a great idea to leave your luggage in the car for an extended time period. Drop it at the hotel THEN go enjoy your vacation! Another random fun thing to do in Maui is go check out the lobby/pool area of other hotels. Most hotels are fine with you wandering around as long as you’re not bothering anyone or using the pool. The Grand Wailea is a beautiful property & the lavender fields nearby are awesome too.

Must Do #3: Drink!
Only if you’re 21+ obviously, haha! Really this Must Do is just meant to be a Tip to remind you to RELAX – however it is you make that happen. If you want to get a massage by the beach, or you prefer sipping a pina colada (or 2 or 3, no judgement!) in a pool chair – Maui has several ways to help you relax. Not every day has to be filled with wild adventure – unless that’s what helps you relax. That’s one of my favorite things about Maui. There’s something for everyone. Whenever I vacation with my mom, one of my goals is usually to get her to drink because she very rarely does. As you can see in the video, I have way too much fun giving her a hard time about drinking. Something fun & new we did on our trip was visit a Vodka Distillery. We chose to visit the Haili’imaile Distilling Company which is home to Pau Maui Vodka, Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar Rum, Paniolo Whiskey, & Maui Moon Vodka. There’s a law on Maui that the Distillery MUST educate you in some way before letting you sample Spirits so we took a tour of the facility & it was actually really interesting! They have several flavors of Spirits to choose from, you pick 3, no chasers/mixers! The Tour Guide/Bartender told us that to really taste the complexities in each Spirit we’d have to be really familiar with the Spirit in general beforehand – we clearly are not that familiar because we both agreed everything just tasted like drinking fire, haha! Overall, still a fun experience, always cool to try something new.

Must Do #4: Warren & Annabelle’s Magic Show
OH. MY. GOSH! If you like magic or theatre or good food or good drinks or a good time, you should definitely go see Warren & Annabelle’s Magic Show on Front Street!!!!! No joke, I have been waiting basically my whole life to see this show. You have to be 21 to attend & this was the first time I’d been to Maui over age 21, so this was the first time I was able to go. Warren is a Magician & Annabelle is a ghost that haunts the parlor room. You enter the parlor via secret passage that you find based on clues Annabelle gives you. You enjoy dinner while Annabelle plays music, then you enter a small theatre for Warren’s Magic Show. Warren Gibson is the namesake of the show, but he doesn’t always perform. I was lucky enough to see his performance & while a bit old fashioned, he’s truly amazing. You can tell he’s very passionate about his work. We ordered the Royal Flush Package which includes (per person) Admission to the show, 2 cocktails, a plate of appetizers, & a dessert. The food was delicious, the dessert (Creme Brulee) was delicious, the drinks (Lahaina Lollipop – Malibu, Midori, pineapple juice, orange juice & Caramel Apple Martini – Caramel Vodka, Sour Apple Pucker, Butterscotch Schnapps, Sweet & Sour Mix) were delicious!!! It was truly magical – highly recommended!

Must Do #5: Go to a Luau!
Of course if you’re going to Hawaii, you have to go to a Luau at least once! The Old Lahaina Luau is the best! I’ve been several times & never grown tired of it. The food, drinks, & service are always top notch. The Luau is extremely creative & tells the history of Maui in a really beautiful way. I’ve seen people of all ages enjoy themselves at this Luau. Really, how can you go wrong eating a delicious dinner while watching a time honored tradition against a glowing sunset on the beach!?

An additional activity I would recommend is going to Whaler’s Village. I didn’t make it there this trip so I couldn’t include it in the Vlog & I was super disappointed. It’s just a shopping center but hidden inside is a museum that teaches about the culture of a whaling town, which Lahaina was from 1825 to 1860. I love the atmosphere of the Village, it’s definitely worth a trip to look around!
This is another activity that didn’t make the Vlog because I’m going to do a separate Concert Review on the experience. I would recommend checking out what mainland musical acts/movie festivals etc might be visiting the island. I had never thought to do this before but I will definitely be investigating in the future. Just by luck we found out that Country Music artist Billy Currington was going to be performing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, so we bought tickets & it was a great show at a great venue!  MACC has hosted other cool performances like “Straight No Chaser”, “Last Comic Standing”, Santana, & on April 6th 2016, Lee Brice!! I smell a return trip in the works 😉

Alright, so there you have it, a few Tips, Must Do’s, & Recommendations to have the best Maui vacation ever! What do you think? Do you love Maui as much as I do & have a few suggestions to add? Please let me know in the comments below! Are you planning a trip to Maui soon? If so, please take me with you, we’ll go get tattoos on Front Street at Skin Deep, eat lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate, then go catch some sun and surf – Alooooha! Mahalo for reading 😉

Concert Review! Luke Bryan “Kick the Dust Up Tour” at Levi’s Stadium

Hey y’all! On Saturday, August 29th my Gemini spirit sister Katie & I went to see Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up” Tour at Levi’s Stadium. We had an amaziiiiinnnggg time – so much fun! Watch the video below for some clips of the concert & some commentary from me. We weren’t down in the pit so the video clips aren’t amazing, forgive the quality and distance, but it’ll give you some idea of what the stage looked like & all that jazz. Most of the clips aren’t long because they’re from my SnapChat (@missal_leigh). Sometimes it’s hard to run my social media, take pics/video for the blog, & also actually be in the moment, but those are the struggles of a blogger I guess. Also, please excuse my awful singing! I tried to cut out video where you can hear me but sometimes my voice got in there sooooo enjoy!!

I didn’t mention this in the video but if you’re going to an event at Levi’s Stadium – be warned! Parking is a complete and utter NIGHTMARE!!!!! We got dropped off thinking that would be the easiest way to move through all the traffic, getting in wasn’t too bad, but leaving – we had to walk a mile, which would’ve been fine except with my hip, I was suffering. The struggle was real.

Let me know in the comments below if you were also at this show and what you thought. I’m going to a Country Music Festival in Vegas that I’m SUPER excited about, what concert are you headed to next? Maybe I’ll see you there 🙂 Thanks for reading!