#SXSW? Read the Rules

Photo by Carlos Delgado on Unsplash

So you came to #SXSW, huh? You’re excited to hit the sidewalks, trek around downtown Austin and see what our city has to offer. But first: read the rules.

  1. Don’t litter. Yes, we know that many times the first trashcan you see is overflowing, but keep that litter in hand until you find the next one. The #SXSW volunteers and the city will be doing their best to keep things clean, and we expect you to do your part.
  2. Be kind to anyone serving you anything, whether it’s a free PBR or a paid meal. If service is abysmal, reduce your tip. If it’s free and service is abysmal, think about how that person with the ‘tude has to deal with masses of people clamoring for freebies. Who knows, maybe their cat died last night but they’re out there anyway, doing their job. Cut everyone some slack. Use “please” and “thank you” for extra credit.
  3. Don’t take a scooter. Let me repeat that. Do NOT take a scooter. Yes, you probably can ride one. Yes, you probably do have good intentions of leaving it in a proper place instead of strewn willy-nilly wherever it may fall. Just walk. Walk. Downtown isn’t huge. Or take a pedicab, bus, Lyft, Uber, bicycle. The scooters in Austin are a huge nuisance and dangerous. My blind friend Jake (who does not fault me for saying “blind” instead of “vision-impaired”) approves of this message, and beseeches you to think of those who cannot easily see when a scooter has been left lying across a walkway. He knows, as well as I do, that in a city with the state school for vision-impaired students, these scooters will end up seriously injuring someone who stumbles over them. And yes, vision-impaired people attend #SXSW and drink free PBR, too, so please give them safe sidewalks. We’ve already had one scooter rider die, and APD may just hand you a ticket for unsafe riding.
  4. If a venue is full, don’t turn your frustration and fury onto the door person. That unpaid volunteer (or minimum wage venue staff) is simply the messenger. Every venue knows that the fire marshal will be making the rounds all day and night in order to ensure that the venues are not packing y’all in like sardines. It’s safety, ya know?
  5. When the thought of yet another almost cold mass-produced breakfast taco or slice of pizza kicks off the search for a great meal, go local. We have so many top tier restaurants in town, in all price ranges, and it’d be a damn shame if you were here for a week and didn’t get a fresh breakfast taco or plate of barbecue, or Tex Mex. If you don’t know where to eat, ask an Austinite. The Austin Food Blogger’s Alliance publishes its annual #ATXBestEats, a handy guide of tasty spots.
  6. When you fall in love with Austin, and you will, don’t immediately make plans to move here. The reality of our awesome city is that traffic is horrendous and housing is horribly overpriced. Instead, please come back at the end of next month for the Austin Food & Wine Festival, and in the fall for #ACLFest. The #AFWFest is the singularly best way to try nibbles from all of the best restaurants in town, while drinking wine, craft spirits, and craft beer. It’s well worth the price of admission, and so much more than you can imagine. There’s live fire cooking, decidedly un-stuffy educational seminars, and cheflebrities galore. As for #ACLFest, it’s 3 days of the most music possible, with great food and craft beer. Come! Spend your money, have fun, make memories. Wash, rinse, repeat. You may not move here unless you spend at least one week visiting during the latter part of August or early September. If the brutal heat doesn’t scare you away, you might be a candidate for citizenship.
  7. Overindulgence. We’ve all done it. What you don’t want to do is to be that obnoxious drunk careening through the crowd like a toddler on a sugar high. Ain’t nobody got time for that. If you’ve had too much, hightail it back to your hotel room, Airbnb, or hostel. Do not puke in the Uber. Drink a Topo Chico, eat a banana, pop a few Tylenol’s, and sleep it off. Hydration is key.
  8. If you need a break from the crowds, seek out some serenity. The hike and bike trail around Town Lake Lady Bird Lake makes for a nice walk, and you can practice your zen breathing. Spend some time at the Blanton, visiting Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin.” Take in a goat yoga class. #naahmaste
  9. Network. Talk to people. If you’re excited about a panel, ask the person next to you what they are expecting to get out of it. Dialogue. Make connections.
  10. Have fun. What’s the point of bringing so many people together if you don’t enjoy yourself? Let your self relax, open up, and enjoy. Be happy.
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Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash

Fat. I’ve fought it almost my entire life. I didn’t start out as an, ahem, larger lady. When I was born prematurely, I weighed in at a scant 3lbs, 13oz. Almost 4lbs, y’all! I’m not sure exactly when my battle of the bulge started, but it was at some point in childhood.

My twin sister and I were teased in elementary school by the neighborhood bully, who referred to us mockingly as “Jelly and Belly.” I tried to beat her up but quickly learned I’m a lover not a fighter. My sister ended up with broken glasses, and the bully’s mom slammed the door in my dad’s face when he demanded an explanation, and apology. It would be the first of many times I noticed the looks of disdain, the judgment in the eyes of my peers. When I was growing up, you had to be pretty and thin to be popular. I hear school hasn’t changed much in that regard, which is too damn bad. As an adult, the most influential people in my life have rarely been pretty and thin.

Ten years ago, my son was born. My sweet, miraculous baby was the best surprise I’ve ever had. My husband and I had already written off parenthood, for a variety of reasons. He’d promised me a great vacation every year and a little yappy dog I could put clothes on, and I grieved some but put on my game face and rallied. I’d always wanted to be a mother. When the universe played a trick hand, we were thrilled and terrified. I immediately scaled back on my exercise program, which at the time included an early morning boot camp as well as run/walking. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize the pregnancy.

After my son was born, I felt like I had to prove that I still had it. So I hit the trail and trained for a half marathon. I had several longer mileage races under my belt, and a triathlon, so it was important to me that I could do another half marathon post-baby. It was the worst race ever, but I made it through. After that I saw my weight yo yo up and down as nine years quietly passed.

My father had a series of health crises in 2017, and by the end of that year had still not entirely bounced back. My dad has always been tough as nails, the work from sun up to sun down kind of man. He wouldn’t quit until the job was done. He had survived esophageal cancer, and had excellent health until January of 2017. He’d powered through emergent cardiac bypass surgery, a mild stroke, and a surgery to fix a clogged carotid artery, but he just wasn’t regaining his strength. And that’s when we found out about the lung tumor. Last year was rough. Worse than rough, it was heartbreaking and exhausting.

At the start of 2018 we were facing the news that my father had terminal cancer, and the treatments would perhaps prolong his life a year, maybe more, maybe not. What followed was a series of horrendous seizures from brain mets, a less successful than expected radiation therapy, and a single day of chemo. Dad gathered my mother and I close and asked us what we wanted him to do. “Fight,” we said. Fight! But we also wanted him to enjoy his remaining time. It’s a no win situation, when you have to make that kind of decision.

Ultimately, Dad decided he was done with doctors, and treatments, and would only take meds to treat the worst symptoms. He entered hospice, at home, fairly early in the game. He made his own decisions. He made a plan. We listened. We offered our opinions. We cried, but we did it all together. In the end, Dad chose his path, and we honored it. My father maintained his strength even in his dying. Thirty-three days before he took his final breath he was out on his little ranch, clearing up a tree that had come down in a summer storm. Hospice patients don’t usually wield chainsaws, but my father had never been one to conform to society’s standards. He was one tough man.

My mother and I became caretakers, and I learned how important it is to maintain a medication log. When you’re sleep deprived, you don’t want to risk giving a dose of the wrong med, or worse, forgetting to give one. I humbled myself in the face of my father’s humiliation when I had to help him on to and off of his potty chair, and with his clothes, when there was no one else around. He was the epitome of modest, and having me there to help with toileting was the worst embarrassment for him. For me, it was all done in love.

I leaned on my family, and my friends, and my love of carbs to get through the last months of my father’s life. He was slipping away, and I was frantically trying to memorize every.last.second.

When my father passed, a few days after his last meal (a few bites of smoked brisket, a cup of coffee and a taste of banana pudding), I was numb. I’d already spent half the year comfort eating to fill the ache in my soul. I would spend the rest of the year eating to fill the numbness, to try to find some joy, to fill the void left after losing him. I packed on the pounds.

At the end of 2018, I felt awful both physically and emotionally. I was finally clear of the fog of grief, but I had let myself eat my way into a very unhealthy situation. It was time for some tough love. I stepped on the scale.

I have never weighed as much in my life as I do now. I wasn’t even this heavy when I was pregnant. What a rude awakening! I’d battled the grief, and the havoc it wreaked on my memory, my immune system, my mental state, and now I was looking at myself and realizing what I’d let grief do to my physical state. My blood pressure is up, and I’m fighting to lower my blood sugar below the “pre-diabetic” range. I’m fighting fat, again. AGAIN.

I’m making changes in small steps, because I’m afraid if I change too much at once, I’ll self-sabotage. I’m planning out my weekday breakfasts and lunches, as that is when I’m most likely to break down and get a cheeseburger if I don’t have a quick meal at the ready. I’m slowly moving back into an exercise routine. It’s disappointing that at one time I could easily do a 4-5 mile walk on a whim, but walking two miles is a challenge today. I’m doing meals plans for dinner, and making sure it’s a meal that can come together quickly, when I’m hangry, and my family is driving me insane, the dog is begging for treats, the cat wants to be fed, and there’s Girl Scout cookies in the freezer and just one won’t hurt and why not have a glass of wine….and OMG just stop and breathe, and make that healthier choice of the dinner I planned. Y’all get me, right?

My journey has started. I’m hopeful that it will never end, only level up. I want to be a healthy woman, wife, mom, dog mom, cat mom, rat mom (yes, we have two, don’t ask). I want to walk more than 2 miles without aching. I want to look moderately decent in a swimsuit in Jamaica in May. I want to cross a finish line again (but I’m done with half marathons, so it’ll be a 5 or 10K). I want to regain my sense of self, of wholeness.

I want to not stop until the job is done, like Dad.

Harold Stanley Marley 1934-2018
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Home Slice Pizza’s Federal Government Employee Appreciation Week

Image courtesy of Home Slice Pizza

As if Austinites need a reason to love Home Slice more, the NY-style pizza company announced today that all locations are offering a free slice and a soda to any federal government employee (must show government-issued ID). The shutdown might be over but our federal employees are still playing catch up with pay. With the President not ruling out another shutdown, it’s great to see restaurants like Home Slice throwin’ a little love around.

The free slice & soda is offered between the hours of 11am and 5pm, and runs today through Friday. Home Slice Pizza and More Home Slice are located at 1415 and 1421 S. Congress Ave., and Home Slice Pizza North Loop is at 501 E. 53rd St., by North Loop.

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