Tag Archives: texas

Holidays, Laughter and Foreskin: The Fundamentals

The back to school or work adjustment is always a challenge post-holidays. On the one hand, people are often invigorated with big plans for new year, which is adorable. On the other hand it’s cold and, in my case, lonely and trying to get back into a routine after time off can be a little bumpy. Everything you had delegated to future you is now present you’s problem and I always have more faith in future Lea than she really deserves. But in any event, here we are. Mostly due to excessive aforementioned faith in my future self, my past self decided that my partner and I should visit three states in the 10 days he could reasonably be expected to take off work for the holidays. Fun!

So, we did it: Texas for Christmas, Florida for Hanukkah and New York for New Years. It was as crazy as it sounds but totally necessary and worth it. We had recently seen the family we have in Arkansas and California, but the Floridians and New Yorkers had yet to see the whites of our eyes since we became a married couple. Our jaunt included planes, trains and automobiles, Texas BBQ, Florida beaches and Times Square on New Years (just kidding, only a crazy person would do that). Our hearts and stomachs were filled with love, pizza and bagels and before we knew it was back to reality, whoops there goes gravity.

School has been back for a week now and this year marks the start of my clinical rotations as a midwifery student. It reminds me a lot of my first rotation as a nursing student with all the fumbles, missteps and fear. I had the great pleasure of enjoying dinner with some of the colleagues I shared my very first nursing rotation with and the laughs we had while reminiscing reminded me of the post-rotation conferences we had when we were all still learning to listen to hearts and lungs.

I always consider the beautiful souls I went through undergrad with to be kindred spirits from whom I can never really part. The impact of nursing school has bonded me to some of these people in a similar way. The image of being surrounded by my male colleagues outside the room of a patient whom I was about to catheterize is forever burned in my memory.

“Is he circumcised?” they asked.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. My preceptor then asked if I had ever seen a foreskin, to which I quickly replied, “I really don’t see how that’s any of your business.” We were off to a great start. Ultimately the procedure was successful, but there was and is always one thing to do in nursing school before you are allowed to call it a day: reflect.

In keeping with the tradition of reflection, I shared my experience of the catheterization with my group. Specifically, I highlighted my surprise at how profoundly I was able to feel the catheter in my hand through the patient’s penis. I looked at one of my colleagues, a woman I admire more than most on this Earth and admitted, “I guess I’ve just never held a flaccid penis before.” Without missing a beat this incredible woman facetiously replied, “Well, good for you!”

It was the best day of my life.

Any day that comes anywhere close to feeling as connected as I did to those people during that rotation will be an opal in a week of dumb, stupid rocks. Here’s to hoping we all continue expanding ourselves with people we can have a really good belly laugh with; I’m convinced those are all that really matter in this world.


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Peer Pressure, I’m very sensitive.

It has been a minute since I’ve used this space but two of my best friends have recently taken to the social media and now I’m gonna, too! Their excellent writing has impressed in me the importance of using the online to spread information about women’s health. Please check out this great blog: https://acrossthespeculum.tumblr.com/ and follow this twitter feed: @southern_stdtNM. These are two brilliant women who inspire me to be more but make me feel like I’m enough. It’s possible that I will write some about women’s health, but no promises.

A lot has happened since I’ve been away. We lived in Carolina while Jared did the MBA thing and then we backpacked around South America for a few months (cause when else are we going to have the time?) and now I live in Nashville where I’m studying to be a midwife (what?) and Jared lived in Seattle, where he works for Amazon. We also exchanged sarcastic nuptials in a bar last March. Mazel to us.

But back to being a student midwife and all the amazing women I get to grow into this role with. After spending a year becoming an RN, which included spending time with a lot of 22-year-old blonde women, I am proud to call one or two of them my friends. My other comrades in this program are older, wiser and more brunette (although the true geniuses among us remain defiantly blonde). We are a motley crew of individuals from all over the country with different goals and opinions about women’s health. How great is that?

Our group runs the gamut. We have die-hard liberals eager to take issue with the status quo as well as southern conservatives whose norms are being challenged. I believe the breadth of experiences each of us bring makes all of us better. Our differences are representative of the wide range of women we will be serving, all of whom deserve health care providers who will advocate for their wants and needs.

A brilliant friend once said, “If I’m ignorant about something don’t belittle me, educate me.” This knife cuts both ways because I know firsthand that liberal New Yorkers are just as capable of being closed-minded as conservative Texans. Being truly able to embrace newness without judgment is a skill I have yet to master, but it’s one I aspire to. We have only to gain from being open to learning from people who are different from us. It’s when we think we’ve figured it all out that we’re really missing opportunities to grow.

This program has shown me both that I know nothing, Jon Snow, and that I’m capable of literally anything. We all are. In 18 months Vanderbilt has turned 140 students, some fresh of out undergrad, into nurses on their way to becoming NPs. What’s an NP do again? They help the doctor, right? And midwives – are they really still a thing?

In a nutshell, a nurse-midwife is an advanced practice nurse just like a nurse practitioner. A nurse practitioner is an independent health care provider who can work with or without doctors in a variety of settings. Other types of nurse practitioners include those who work in primary care, those who work in acute care (the hospital), those who just see kids, those who just see older folks and those who specialize in mental health. 95% of CNMs (certified nurse midwives) work in hospitals attending vaginal births and our scope of practice includes primary care for women from puberty through menopause.

Pelvic exams, STI testing, contraception prescribing, IUD insertions, prenatal care, labor and birth support, sexual health needs, menopause symptom management — midwives do it all.

The more you know.

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The Beauty of Being Home

It’s funny how being around people from your past makes you revert, in a way, to who you were when you first knew them. I feel so grateful to have reconnected with a few friends from my childhood now that we’re all grown up. The really stark contrast I notice is how much I, and they, have changed over the past decade and how, in a way, we are all still the same. The mannerisms of these adults seem no different to me than their pre-teen counterparts when, in truth, they have undergone massive transformations for which I was not there. It saddens me a bit to see how much I have missed out on having moved so far away after high school. With that said, I may be even more overjoyed by the knowledge that, for some friends, time and distance are irrelevant.

During this trip to Texas, and being on the verge of yet another transition as my person and I prepare to move to North Carolina, I have been blessed to spend real quality time with friends I have known since they days of sleepovers and school dances. There must be some kind of unbreakable bond formed with people you go through puberty with because, even with years and miles between us, I feel myself falling back into the same skin I wore at age 12. The conversation feels the same, the laughter feels the same and the beautiful, indescribable sense of belonging has made me sure that, regardless of no longer having a house here, this will always be my home.

Home is a loaded word. It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, myself included. I just left a home in Queens that I loved and am about to move into a new home in North Carolina, which I’m incredibly excited about. My mom’s home is in heaven and my dad’s home is whichever trout stream he’s standing in and yet, somehow, Austin remains the home in my heart. I guess that’s one of the funny things about life; no matter how much you move or how many homes you rack up, there will always be the one from which you came that, if you’re lucky, you can always return to and find the person you started out as on your way to becoming who you are. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll find a few of the people you started out with and be a part of each other’s journeys yet again. I’m one of the really lucky ones.

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Mementos and Memories

There’s a difference. Mementos are the things we hold onto to remind us of the memories within our souls. They, in and of themselves, are no more than things and yet the emotional attachments we form with them can be very real. In the 18  months since my mother passed I have spent nearly every morning drinking from a mug that I gave her a few years ago. It reminds me of her every day and I’ve grown incredibly attached to this morning routine. Attachments can be comforting. They can also be damaging. In this case, I knew the fragility of the memento I used to retain this particular memory would eventually be tested. No one has the same coffee cup forever because coffee cups are made of ceramic and people are made of human and humans drop things. When this inevitability did finally come to pass this weekend, my initial reaction was, well, not good. It wasn’t anger I felt, but fear. The empty fear that I would have to say goodbye to those mornings and to those memories. As I tried to hide my tears by chopping an unnecessary amount of onion, my love worked hastily to try and repair my mug, my memories. I assured him it was fine, not something to worry about, it’s just a mug. But he knows me, knows my soul and would not be deterred.

Then it happened. The radio started…

The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.
When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.
And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: “Boy let me tell you what!”

I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone has songs that remind them of a specific place or person. This Charlie Daniels classic does both for me. It takes me back to Schlitterbahn as a youth, a water park my mother and I went to every summer for as long as I can remember. Schlitterbahn was our thing. It was a yearly tradition for just the two of us and part of the tradition was that we had to spend the entire day behaving like children (this went on until I was 18). I remember one year “The Devil went down to Georgia” came on the loudspeaker and my mom and I sang and danced along like, well, children. Until, of course, it got to the end and the line was edited as “I done told you once you son of a gun..” and Jeanie loudly corrected the loudspeaker, “I done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.”

She ruled.

Back in 2013, I’m now laughing through my tears, trying to explain the significance of this well-timed tune to my person. If ever there are signs we are supposed to take heed of in this life, “The Devil went down to Georgia” coming through my radio at that moment was one of them. Mementos will come and go, but there are an infinity of memories that can never be broken. And even the most delicate of mementos can be repaired and repurposed. My person, who cares more for my tender little heart than I’ll ever understand, glued my mug back together piece by piece and we are going to use it as a little planter. Thanks to him, we can now grow new memories out of the old. Jeanie would like that.

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Austin: Pizza, Tacos and Sunshine

My sister, who lives in Austin, is getting married this year. And since I don’t want to be an absentee maid of honor, I will be venturing down South several times over the next few months. The first of these visits came last weekend for her engagement party. Over my 2 days there, I ate at no fewer than three Austin establishments. The first of these, Magnolia Cafe, I’ve written about before, so we’ll skip it.

On Friday night, we piled into the car and drove down to the drag to fight the UT students for parking and then for sidewalk space. We did not fight them, however, for a booth at the Mellow Mushroom (8:00p must be when the “old” people eat). We were seated right away and each ordered something different:

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Kosmic Karma: Red sauce base with feta and mozzarella cheeses, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and Roma tomatoes with a pesto swirl.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

Mellowterranean: Olive oil and garlic base with all natural grilled chicken, onions, roasted red peppers, black olives, chives, feta and mozzarella cheeses with a side of tzatziki sauce.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

Buffalo Chicken: Mozzarella cheese, grilled Buffalo chicken, caramelized onions, Applewood smoked bacon with a swirl of Buffalo sauce. Served with your choice of bleu cheese or ranch dressing.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

House Special: Red sauce base with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham, Applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, black olives, Roma tomatoes, green peppers and onions. Topped with extra mozzarella.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

And Kate built her own salad… shout out to the ring!

The next day was February 2nd and my bestie and I were cruising around with the top down. I repeat: February 2nd, it was 73 degrees and sunny. Texas-1, New York-0.

We went to one of Austin’s favorite food trucks, Torchy’s Tacos on South 1st.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

“Damn Good Tacos” indeed.

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The Wrangler: eggs and potatoes topped with smoked beef brisket and jack cheese. Served with tomatillo salsa.

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Street Corn: Fresh roasted off-the-cob corn topped with ancho aioli, queso fresco, cilantro and dusted with New Mexico red chili powder.

austin, austin restaurants, mellow mushroom, torchys tacos, food trucks

The Independent: Hand-battered and fried portobello mushroom strips, refried black beans, roasted corn, escabeche carrots, queso fresco, cilantro, and avocado. Drizzled with ancho aioli.

I must say, as someone who aspires to run a food truck one day, I know for sure that I would not make tacos in Austin. This is a market cornered by established joints like this that are, in fact, damn good. What kind of food would you like to see served from a truck?


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TGIF= Happy Hour, Ya’ll!

In celebration of Friday, I thought I’d encourage everyone to get out there and TREAT YO SELF to a beverage and/or tasty treat from your local watering hole. Here are a few of my favorite haunts:

blackbirds, bar, astoria, nyc, windjammer, peak organic ipa, draught beer

This is the “Windjammer” and a Peak Organic IPA

First up, we have my local Astoria bar, Blackbird’s, which specializes in craft beers and tasty appetizers. My favorite Friday afternoon treat from here is “The Windjammer,” a dip made of black beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes and onions. I also don’t mind that they serve my IPA to me in a mason jar, just like down home.

heartland brewery, NYC, pub food, beer, bar food, bar, restaurant

Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls and a Harvest Wheat

Next up we have the most embarrassing of the three bars I frequent, the world famous Heartland Brewery. World-famous if you’re a tourist, that is, as these are the only folks I am ever sharing this bar with. I don’t care if it’s an over-priced NY chain, I like that they brew their own beers and these spring rolls are freaking delicious.

homefield grill, bar, fried pickles, round rock, texas, austin, nolan ryan, shiner bock

These are Fried Pickles with an Icy-Cold Shiner Bock

Lastly, for the Austinites who might be reading this blog, I recommend heading a few miles north to the sexy and risqué village of Round Rock for a nice visit to the HomeField Grill. The outfits are tacky, but the brewski selection is impressive and you really can’t go wrong with pickles battered, deep fried and served to you by a bartender in a referee’s uniform.

Oh, “Home Field…”… I GET IT!

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Texas Eats, from Austin to Abliene

I spent 10 days in Texas this May, which were glorious in many ways, but specifically in the family and the food. Since nobody wants to hear me get all mushy over my family, I’ll focus on the food! I enjoyed several delicious meals during this trip, but I’ve selected three to share with you today. The first is of my very favorite restaurant in the world and a common favorite amongst Austinites: Magnolia Cafe. Mottos include: “Everyone Knows, Everyone Goes” and “Sorry, We’re Open” (they’re open 24/7).

Ever wonder what your dying meal would be? I don’t. It’s this.

Queso with black beans, pico and avocado: “Mag Mud” — We’re married.







Every meal I have here begins with their house favorite: Mag Mud. This consists of chili con queso, a Tex-Mex staple, along with black beans, pico de gallo and avocado. It’s quite simply the most delicious thing I’ve ever had anywhere. I generally continue my meal with the chicken enchiladas and I double up on the black beans cause, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t care for rice. I’ve had enchiladas all over the country, although having them all over Texas is enough to establish my credibility when I say these are the best. THE BEST.

No trip to Texas is complete without steak and potatoes…

… and a Shiner Bock!










My trip continued from Austin to Abilene to see my sister, Kate, graduate from college. I enjoyed this drive with my grandma and best friend, Velma Rae. On our first night in Abilene, Kate wanted to show off her town a little, which began with a beautiful meal at the downtown steakhouse: The Beehive Saloon. Here I enjoyed a deliciously tender strip steak with a loaded baked potato: the food of my ancestors. And, of course, no Texas trip is complete with a Shiner Bock.

An old-school country-style gospel band entertained us!

I did not take this photo, I was too hungry — Click to read the blog I borrowed it from.








A Texan through and through, Kate knew where she wanted us all to go for her graduation dinner: The Clyde Pizza House in Clyde, Texas, which has a reputation around town for being the best pizza in the area. I’m here to tell you this may be the best pizza in most areas, and I’m saying that as someone who, if not for Magnolia’s enchiladas, would choose pizza for her last meal. I know pizza and this was in my top five best pizzas ever. The crust was unlike any other I’ve had. The best part about this meal, besides the company, was the wonderful family band that played old gospel tunes… brought me right back to riding in a pickup truck as a little girl 🙂

My life and my love are in New York, but my heart remains in Texas.

We will be reunited some day.


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Shiner Bock in New Jersey?

So first a little fun fact about Bloomfield, NJ (or Montclair or Glen Ridge, unless you’re from Jersey, all these seem the same to you): these townships have a limited number of liquor licenses and a growing number of restaurants, ergo many of these establishments are BYOB. So with that said, there I was minding my own business during our pre-dinner liquor store stop-by when I saw something very out of the ordinary for New Jersey:

The proof this is NJ is in their ridiculously high legal tobacco age. That noise would never fly in Texas.

YES! That’s a bottle of Shiner Bock, brewed and bottled in Shiner, Tx. and one of my favorite beers. — I’d love to comment on the FourLoko in the picture… but I was taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, so we’ll move on…

If you’re from Texas, you’ll understand the miracle of being able to find such a gem in any northeastern city, let alone a suburb! So you can imagine my extreme jubilance when the kind shop owner directed me to the cooler:


Shut up! By now I am walking around the store like I’ve just entered Narnia and there are many mystical things this place can teach me. I am both thrilled for Shiner and for myself and for Bloomfield, you’re luckier than you know, I hope you take advantage of it!

Right then, I vowed to the owner that I would write this blog on his shop, Gallaghers Wine and Cheese Shop, and encourage everyone in the area to choose his establishment over your many other pre-dinner stop by options, which I am doing now: shop here. The selection is excellent and the service is impeccable. You won’t be disappointed.

I’m only one person with one URL address, but I’ll jump at the chance to use it to promote your business if you’re kind or, in this case, support something I love. POP POP.

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Healthy Tex Mex!

No, this isn’t a list of oxymorons, this is the response to my latest very specific craving. I was dying for something in the Mexican category that wasn’t overly fried or cheesed. I had chicken, I had beans, I had avocados.

My mission was clear.


Click for refried black beans recipe!

Spice rub includes: cayenne, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper

First I got the beans going, which takes some time, but I think it’s worth it. Then I rubbed my boneless, skinless chicken breast with lime juice and coated it in the spice rub pictured above.

Make sure that skillet's hot with butter and oil! You only need a minute or two on each side.

Then into the oven on a bed of limes at 350 for 30 minutes (can cover chicken with limes too!)

While the chicken’s in the oven, I threw together some guacamole and a quick pico of tomatoes, onion and red bell pepper. I figured everything was spicy enough to do without fresh jalapeños on top.

Presentation makes regular food feel fancy!

Hiding food under food... very very sneaky.

There you have it! Lime chili chicken on a bed of refried beans with guacamole and pico de gallo!

Finished off here a little bit of sharp cheese and some tortilla strips!

I recommend enjoying with a Modelo Especial, but that's up to you :-

Mission accomplished. POP POP.

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The Holidays, Humor and Humility

This week, with the holidays right around the corner, I find myself immersed in a myriad of emotions. Beginning on Sunday with what we knew would be a close game, the Giants played more with our hearts than against their opponent. If you know anything about those residing in my home, you know this game was no joking matter. But in the end, they were victorious, leaving the anxiety of “can they do it?” to linger on.

I am blessed to spend this evening with some wonderful friends having a veggie packed meal before I return to the land of no veggies (only kidding, Texas) to be with my family. Excitement fills me as does nostalgia. My heart is heavy as I remember each Christmas from my childhood. To forget the past is to forget who we are and yet remembering can often be so difficult. It is important to remember, it is important to feel and it is most important, during times like these, to treat yo self!



Nobody knew the power of a post-work beverage better than Jeanie. So from her through me and now to you, I raise a glass of cinnamon sugar rimmed Harpoon Winter Warmer (aka heaven in a glass) to all of my family. Both those I was lucky enough to be given and those I’ve made for myself. You are the reason for the season and I’m grateful for what  you’ve meant to me. L’Chaim!

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