January highlights: a trip to Saguaro National Park

January 2023 Highlights: The Highs + Lows

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January flew by despite the fact that I was only away from home six nights. Typically, it’s a slower month for us, but I didn’t feel that way this year looking back over our January highlights and seeing how much we were on the move. On one hand, I love having the first month of the year to prepare and strategize for the coming 11 months, and I feel like we missed the boat this year.

Photographer life

On the other, I’m grateful we have so much work especially in light of the threat of a recession and the mounting layoffs in the media industry. We have so many fun photography, video, tourism marketing, public art and editorial projects coming up this spring that I’m bursting with gratitude. Here’s what last month looked like.

The Highs

We went to Tucson! We’ve started attempting to do an annual board retreat for our public art nonprofit in a different city known for its placemaking. When our board member Emilie proposed Tucson for this year, we found ourselves with flights and a rental home within 24 hours of her suggestion. Though I worked in Arizona in college, I’d never been that far south in the state, and I really loved the desert landscape and also the diversity of artistic styles throughout the city.

Tucson mural by Jessica Gonzales

mural by Tucson artist Jessica Gonzales

I earned Southwest Companion Pass status! What does that mean? For the next 23 months, my companion flies for free with me (and I can use points for my flights). We’re already exercising that perk for a big trip this coming week to celebrate my 40th birthday. Here’s how I earned the Southwest Companion Pass without flying a mile. Where should I go with this new privilege?

We started as editorial directors for our regional tourism board. Most of the first month of the gig has been coming up with an editorial calendar, getting to know our roster of writers and editing a backlog of content, but I did write my first piece for the site on Black history in Tennessee.

Experience Tennessee

We had a visitor from Africa! A dear friend who lives in Mali and works for the government was back on R&R and popped down to Tennessee to stay with us for three nights. It was dreary out, so we spent a lot of time in the Cedar House, but I also took her on a tour of all of our murals and to some of my favorite bars and restaurants in Nashville.

Visitor from Africa

I went to Knoxville for a quick 24 hours. I’m thrilled to be on this year’s Governor’s Conference Advisory Board, and we had our first planning meeting a few weeks ago in my beloved college town. Also a stroke of luck? The fact that the Lady Vols were playing their nemesis UConn that evening in Thompson-Boling Arena. You know I had to stick around for that (even if we did ultimately lose).

Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville

I was interviewed about sports travel by Thrillist. Remember how my mom and I went to Indian Wells last year for the tennis major? It’s all part of her tennis bucket list, which I spoke about in this article about why sports travel is back and bigger than ever.

Taking my mom to Indian Wells in Palm Springs, California

I waxed poetic about Alabama on a tourism podcast. I was a guest on the North Alabama podcast to share five of my favorite unexpected adventures in my dad’s home state, which included cascading waterfalls, public art and a monastery in the middle of the countryside! You can listen to it here or the embedded audio below.

I started back with my trainer after an, ahem, long hiatus. I was working out with my girl Emily until the virus shut everything down. She then moved to a new gym, and Mom and I are each back training with her a couple days a week, which feels so nice to finally be back into a routine in addition to joining in on the regular weekly classes. (I still miss Acro, though!)

Fit Beyond Therapy classes

The Challenges

Jan. 25 marked the anniversary of my dad’s death. I think we all had been dreading this date for months, but my sister was proactive and planned a “Dewar’s & Darts for Dad” evening in which we went over to his best friend Kim’s house, played darts, took shots in his honor and had a grand old time sharing our favorite Dad memories. I hope we make this an annual occurrence as it definitely took the sting out of the occasion.

Dad's celebration

My Favorites of the Month

Looking for new recommendations? Here’s what I loved this past month:

Favorite book:  The Diamond Eye and Remarkably Bright Creatures

Favorite movie: Glass Onion (on Netflix)

Favorite TV show: The Last of Us (new on Hulu/HBO) and Righteous Gemstones (old on HBO)

Favorite new app: Readerly to track my reading challenge for the year (add me, @lunaticatlarge, if you join!)

Any TV, book or movie recommendations I should add to my list?

You can read all past monthly recaps here.


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