Category Archives: orlando

Coming Out as an Ally

June has just started and it’s the most rainbow colored month of the year. Yes, June is Pride month and I am beyond excited to celebrate this year.

As I wrote about after my March visit to Orlando, I spent time with friends in the LGBT community and got to spend time in their very welcoming clubs and learned that there is more out there than my small town upbringing.

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Reusing my fave photo from Parliment House in Orlando. Again. I just love it.

While in Orlando, I got to experience my first drag show and have since taken to loving the amazing RuPaul’s Drag Race show and have been binging all the seasons I can get my hands on.  There’s just something so amazing about these people who find their inner voice and creatively channel and share themselves. These queens carry themselves with so much confidence and femininity, humor and glamour- I can’t help but love them.

In the past few months, I wrote about how Katy Perry’s experience growing up was the story I needed to hear. In a nutshell, she grew up really conservative, found this whole new world that’s out there of the LGBT community and that experience has changed her life so much for the better. Her experience is very similar to my own and being shown that others have been there as well is what I needed to become more bold. It might upset some people that I know to say this outloud, but I agree and take the role of an ally to this community. That’s just how it’s going to be- it’s time to stand up for what I truly believe in.

RuPaul has done more than just offer up hours of a fantastic reality show for me to devour, through hours spent listening to him and his bff Michelle Visage on their podcast, What’s the Tee?. The more I’ve listened, the more I’ve learned about Michelle and how she relates to the LGBT community as a straight, married woman with kids.  She speaks very openly about becoming an ally and standing beside all of her friends in every and any way that she can.

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I left this flag painting at the Pulse Memorial in March. In the bottom of the photo, you can see some of the 49 who were lost in the events there.

With June being Pride month, I want to come out as an Ally. I want to proudly say that I support and love and stand behind all of the LGBTQ+ community. While I don’t know even a quarter of it all yet, I am proud to call myself an Ally and want to do good for all of my friends and people I’ll never even meet who want nothing besides the rights seemingly everyone else has been alotted and allowed.  My goal is to spread love and acceptance, happiness and friendship.

I’m here to be an Ally and I’ll shout it from the rooftops. We have to remember: Love is Love is Love is Love and I love you- June or July or December or whenever.

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Where to Find Me: OTR

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I’ve got a face for radio

When I planned my visit to Orlando, the first thing I knew I wanted to do was be a guest on the Orlando Tourism Report. Turns out if you’re crashing on the couch of the host, it helps you get on the air, so that Friday I got the opportunity to add my two cents to the topics covered. Of course, I was so tired and hungry by the last 30 minutes of the show, all I could think and talk about was going to lunch afterwards. Now in my defense, the show is on from 10 AM- noon and having slept just a few hours the night before and not having eaten, I couldn’t help but focus on our impending lunch at The Coop!

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They eventually fed me

Regardless, I had an awesome time getting to chat with the guys on air and can’t wait to weasel my way into being a guest again sometime (hint, hint…promise I won’t talk about being hungry…).  I’ve written about the show before  and think they have some of the best coverage of the Orlando tourism world.  After listening to so many Disney-specific podcasts, it’s really cool to listen to a show that covers it all and dives into what I find to be super interesting content.  For example, on this show that I was on, Ken (with MUCH help from Ed) breaks some news on the Nintendo land that is going in to Universal.

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Ken pondering aloud “What is the name of this peach colored princess?” when discussing Nintendo

You can check out the episode through their site or the OTR Itunes/etc. I have to say though, I think the best part of OTR is the adventures afterward. The crew has lunch together most Fridays after the show and often times checks out some aspect of the local tourist industry (I love that the boys actually get out and see and do things instead of just reading about them on the internet).  When I was there, we took a very detailed walking tour of Winter Park and ended the afternoon (thankfully for the blisters I got on my feet) with a boat tour of the lakes around the area. We saw Carrot Top’s house- I was a happy girl.

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We were on a boat!

Easy Travel Wardrobe

Traveling with one (or two) bags turned out to be harder than I expected. After some shopping, editing and pinterest perusing, my 4 night trip down to Orlando created a wardrobe of mix and match pieces.

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Green Capsule Wardrobe

Pieces I mixed all weekend:

L to R, Top: Dark blue skinny leggings, cutout yoga pants, black linen shorts, my “tiki” dress

L to R, Bottom: Ryan Adams t shirt, Dark green tank top, black sleeveless shirt, white oversized tshirt, green lacy tshirt, green crop top, gray cardigan

I somehow didn’t take many photos of the outfits but I learned how to mix and match on the fly and realized that I needed perhaps one more top and to leave the skinnies at home (it was hot!). I also threw in a comfy dress that can be worn as a dress or to sleep in, and it worked for both.  I kept the shoes to a minimum too by packing only a pair of Vans sneakers that I bought specifically to be nice but comfy for the trip.

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This is the outfit I wore for the flight down, opting for the Ryan Adams shirt (I mean, it has a cat on it!), gray cardi and the black linen shorts.  I also packed a large Marimekko print sarong/scarf and it was great to wrap up in when I got chilly and also was perfect for when I got a little chilly at the airport waiting to travel down.

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Being the diva on the OTR radio show
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Having fun in the green lace top at Mangos

Overall, I felt pretty awesome about packing all my clothes in a smallish backpack and making them work for the entire weekend. Have you every packed using this method? How did it work for you? Any tips?

Thanks for reading!

 

Taking First Flight

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Shocking as it may sound, at the age of 29.5, I recently took my first flight.  Yes, it took almost 30 years to step on a plane and ascend into the air.

I was traveling from Chattanooga to Orlando solo and only had a few days to spend on my long weekend trip, so driving was out of the question, plus who wants to waste two whole days of a short vacay?

The flight out was on Allegiant and, despite an extra 2.5 hours at the Chattanooga airport (yay for outlets & free wifi!), it wasn’t bad at all. I’d watched some videos on youtube on the process and I was admittedly more nervous about going through security than getting on the bird.

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One of the best parts of the delay in leaving meant we were flying after dark. For my first adventure, this wound up being awesome. Instead of being freaked out over seeing the clouds and ground, I was distracted from being scared by paying attention to the lights and watching as we flew over each city.

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Take off wasn’t too bad and I went into it expecting what it felt like: just like riding a roller coaster going up. The best part of going from Tennessee to Florida is the time…a little over an hour later and I was finally meeting up with my friends. It was the ultimate distance saver. I also have to say that I’m already hopeful for my next set of travel dates down to Orlando to spend more time with these awesome people and check out what I can only describe as where I feel I belong. Not too shabby for a little trek that was an hour and change from home, right?

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A Visit to Pulse, March 2017

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I woke up June 12, 2016 and was scared. After a quick scan through my social media, I found out about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.  The first thing that came to mind was a good friend and if he had been present that night. I knew he went out to some of the clubs in town and I hadn’t heard him mention it directly, but it was a possibility.

Thankfully, I sent a message and heard back pretty quickly- he was ok, but 49 fellow LGBTQ+ community members and supporters were not ok. This hit me hard.  The terrorist attack in Chattanooga in 2015 happened (one of the locations) 3 miles or less from my front door, the attacker lived in my in law’s neighborhood, but Pulse hurt so so so much more. I was close with someone who could have very easily been there- I found out later he only went Wednesdays. I am so thankful for this.

This month, I finally made my pilgrimage. I planned a visit to my friend and get shown the lay of the Orlando land- honestly I knew way too much about new building permits and roads that I’d never seen, so it was time to finally make it happen. On the top of my list was visiting Pulse and paying my respects to all of those taken too soon.

The trip finally came around and Orlando won my heart. Head over heels won my heart. Part of that is the community that I felt. On a Friday night, we planned to visit Pulse. As we drove through downtown, we went past the hospital and my friend pointed out the ER that people were taken to. My stomach was in knots. We drove a few more blocks to an area I’d seen on the news, that is until I couldn’t handle it anymore and had to turn the tv off the year before. We parked the car and as we walked towards the club’s parking lot, I told him “I might need a hug in about three minutes”.  He simply responded that we both would.

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As we walked up to the fenced in building, I was surprised that I didn’t cry. There was no one else around at that point but there were candles burning, freshly lit. People had left many mementos of remembrance and sorrow and love and celebration. All along the fence were pieces of art that had been created specifically for this place. Visitors had written all along these and left messages of hope.

One of the things that sticks out so much to me is the speech that Lin-Manuel Miranda gave at the Tony Awards in 2015, which happened to occur on the same evening as the early morning attack. Lin gave an eloquent speech with the memorable sentiment of “Love is Love is Love is Love is Love”. I remember watching this speech as he gave it live on tv, tears streaming down my face.

On the top of one of the tarps, my friend pointed out where it had been written in large letters: “Love is Love is Love”.

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I had painted a pride flag and carried it 500+ miles to find where I it felt it belonged. I placed it on top of a podium that had pictures of the fallen on the base and their names listed on the top. It was hard to read but their faces did enough talking.  My friend came over and pointed out where the door in was and where the bathrooms where that people hid out in. I knew I was really there but I didn’t feel like I was really there, just on the other side of that fence.

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My friend hadn’t been even past the club since before the attack. I felt bad dragging him out there, but in hindsight, I am so glad that he was who I went to this place with. We hugged and held hands. I tried to somehow squeeze some sort of relief to him through hugs, but I’m not sure how well it worked. I do know that I was a lucky person to be able to support of a friend I care so deeply about in a moment that was harder than I will even ever know.

As we walked around, I took a few photos of the things people had left to honor those beautiful people that we lost. I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo of the club’s sign, though. I had seen it so many times on TV and photos and refused to take yet another image of it. I felt like if I took a photo, I was simply a tourist and seeing it simply because I was in Orlando. That would have bothered me more than anything else.

After about 20 minutes, a handful of people showed up (a Friday around 10 pm, mind you) and we decided it was time to move along. I made sure to tell my friend multiple times thank you for taking me to this place and for helping me go through the emotions I had, even from so far away.

It took some time to reflect on our visit, but I realized the next night, sitting by myself, looking at a lake at a Disney World hotel, what it left me with. Seeing the candles lit, people coming by to pay their respects and all of the words of encouragement and hope that had been left, it was about LOVE. Love and Hope.

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We live in a world where bad things happen and people ban together sometimes afterwards. The feeling and everything I saw in Orlando is one of unity. One of the things my friend told me that night was how much the city totally came together when this terrifying act occurred. There were insanely huge crowds at the city wide memorial at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center to celebrate these lives last June. I saw the photos. I didn’t start to get the monstrosity of the size of things until I was riding through the area. I will never ever know the full monstrosity of these events, but I look forward to joining the Orlando community, being an ally, showing loving and doing whatever I can to make it a better place. I have felt if from afar, I’ve seen it felt by someone who is part of it and I hope to never forget what happened but remember and celebrate these lives and all of those they touched.