Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 In Review

December seriously seemed to fly by, and I cannot believe we're at the end of 2019 - at the end of the decade. I know that really, this year ending is no different than any other year ending, but doesn't it being the end of a decade make it feel so much more important?

I don't want to do a month-by-month recap of 2019 - if you wanted that, you could just go back and read the posts! But I thought it'd be fun to share the things that stick out to me the most from 2019.
Traveling
This year took me to cities I'd never been to (Philadelphia, Easton, Columbus), cities I hadn't been to since I was super young (Dallas), and cities I've been to but love to visit (DC). Sometimes, especially for a few weeks in the summer, all of the traveling felt exhausting, but ultimately I loved getting to visit all of the places that I did.

Accessible YOUniverse Summit
This was obviously a hugely exciting part of 2019, so it has to top the list. I never expected to found an advocacy organization and hold a Summit, but seeing it come together was so incredible. I was equal parts terrified and excited leading up to it, and equal parts excited and relieved when it was over, too.

Meeting Leslie Odom, Jr.
I mean, I guess this one sounds like I'm bragging... but it really does top my list when I think about what happened in 2019. It just felt so surreal - partially because it came so close to not happening! There aren't words to describe the whirlwind of the morning that led up to our very brief meeting, but then I actually got to meet him and just couldn't believe it.

Access + Ability
The Access + Ability exhibit at the CMOA was one of the most exciting things that I've seen in a very long while. It was a disability-centric exhibit without attempting to be inspiring - it was just a showcase of so many cool adaptations and accessories for different kinds of disabilities. Seeing that kind of an exhibit in my hometown museum just felt huge.

Warhol Museum Gala
Another pinch me moment - being asked to join the board at the Warhol, and then getting to attend such an incredible evening to support the museum! Getting treated to a private concert by Matthew Morrison and Joan Jett was truly once-in-a-lifetime and something that I will never, ever forget. And being a small part of a museum that has made such a huge impact and is such an important part of Pittsburgh is equally unforgettable.

Time With Friends
This isn't one specific moment in time, but rather a lot of them - just spending quality time with the people in my life. It's something that I value a lot - just catching up with my friends, spending time with them, keeping friendships strong! Especially now that my friends have started having kids - it's a different kind of getting together that we do now, sometimes, but no less enjoyable or important.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Home for the Holidays

I hope that you all enjoyed your holidays! The time off was much-needed for me, especially since I got sick the week before Christmas. Luckily, I was feeling better in time to celebrate with family, and I got to enjoy some relaxation, too. There were a few days where I didn't even open my computer! I think my time in college really conditioned me to think that busier was better - it was always an (unhealthy!) competition of who was doing more. Now I'm much better about appreciating the need to take time off to actually work harder and better afterwards.
So this time off, for me, was the perfect combination of relaxing plus spending time with friends and family. I definitely watched my share of Netflix, and I got to really throw myself into reading (so look out for an updated post on what I've been reading next week!). I also finally got to see the Mr. Rogers movie - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Pittsburgh has had more movies filmed here recently, so it's not that uncommon to see the city on the big screen, but rarely is the movie actually set in Pittsburgh. And Mr. Rogers is such a hometown hero and source of pride for Pittsburghers - it was really excited to see his story being shared. Especially because its a story of warmth and care and just being genuine - that's such an important story to be told. When we got home, we even found the picture of me and my sister with Mr. McFeely, when we were in Pittsburgh's Christmas parade years and years ago.
My family spent Christmas Day slightly differently this year. Usually, we go to mass on Christmas Eve (which we still did this year), and then spend Christmas Day brunch at our house with some of the family on my Dad's side. As my cousins and I have gotten older, though, and "the kids" started having kids, it's become more difficult to coordinate schedules. So this year, it was just me, my sister, my mom, and my dad for most of the day, and we celebrated in our pajamas. It was different, but if there was a year for a chill Christmas, I felt like this was the year.

And don't worry - we still definitely celebrated Christmas with friends and family! Each year, the day after Christmas, my dad's side of the family all gathers at my aunt and uncle's house - we've done it for as long as I can remember! It's where we play the (often crazy) white elephant/grab bag game. I say often crazy because we have a rule of a maximum of 3 gift "steals" per person until the gift permanently becomes yours, and sometimes when it starts to come close to the limit, people will try to hide a gift that they really want. Oh, and one year there was a live lobster. We got together with my mom's side of the family last night - it's a much smaller gathering, but no less fun!
I think my favorite part of the holidays, though, is my family's after-Christmas Christmas party. This is also something that we've had for as long as I can remember, though it's morphed a bit over the years! It started out as my parents friends and family as the guest list for the party, and now, it's my parent's list, plus mine, plus my sister's... so it's grown. Sometimes it's the one time each year that my friends and I are together as a group, and it's always such a blast. And now that my friends are having kids, there's a new generation at the party, too. The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same, right?



Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Favorites

This week has been a bit of a bummer - I started to feel sick at the end of last week, but this week it really hit me. I have been trying to take it easy and get better, because it's really easy for a cold to turn into pneumonia for me.

In exciting news, though, I heard back from Drybar! They actually reached out to me after hearing about my experience. They were really apologetic, but even better, they are committed to making sure that this never happens again, and that anyone using a wheelchair can go into any Drybar and have a fully accessible experience. It meant so much to hear that their Executive Team had meet meeting and discussing what they needed to change. I'm very much looking forward to my next blowout.
One quick note - I'll be taking next week off from posting, as a holiday break. I did this last year, too, and it's been a nice chance for me to get away and come back with a fresh outlook and fun new posts. I hope that you all get to take a bit of a break as well, and have a very Merry Christmas.

Now, on to the final Friday Favorites of 2019!

ONE - Leslie Odom Jr. Performance
Leslie Odom, Jr.'s new album Mr. is fantastic - he has such a range, and his voice is just so GOOD. He performed on a Little Late with Lilly Singh, and he just looks like he's having an absolute blast (as does Lilly, actually)!

TWO - Flu Season Reminder
Just another reminder that getting your flu shot is important, and it can help to stop really big outbreaks. It's not just about you!

THREE - Encore! on Disney+
So I think I already mentioned Encore on Disney+ - it's a show hosted by Kristen Bell that reunites high school musical casts to come back together and perform their show again... in 5 days. The newest episode is a cast that did Oklahoma!, and one of the original cast members had been in a car accident since his high school years and now uses a wheelchair. They arranged a meeting for him with Ali Stroker, a Tony Award winner for her current role in Oklahoma!. It was so special!


Thursday, December 19, 2019

2019 Beauty Buys

I don't tend to be super experimental with my beauty routine. When I find something that I like, and that works, I stick with it. I'll add in new lipsticks and eye shadows, but for the basics, I don't change much.

With that being said, over the past year, I have made some changes to my most-used items. With 2019 coming to a close, I thought I'd share my best beauty buys from over the past year.

Ouai Dry Shampoo
This dry shampoo has converted me from my favorite Drybar one! Now, I will warn you - the scent is strong, and when I spray it the night before, I can still smell it the next morning. But it works really well - it gives my hair some volume, and it really helps avoid the greasy hair look.

Drunk Elephant
I am still routinely using the Framboos exfoliant and the hylauronic acid serum every day, just like I have for the entire year. My skin has been looking great, and neither of them irritate my skin at all. They're definitely pricey, but for me, at least, they're worth it.

Dyson Blowdryer
Okay, this is definitely a splurge. I picked this up during a Black Friday deal, because the Dyson basically never goes on sale. I love how lightweight it is, and how quickly it dries my hair. If you're in the market for an investment dryer, I think this is a great choice.

Vitamin C capsules
This is a recent addition to the list - I liked the vitamin c serum that I was using before, but it was sticky, and I didn't love the feeling that it left on my skin. The hardest part about finding a good vitamin c product is that for it to be effective, it has to be kept from the light. That's what I love about these - they're individual capsules, so I don't have to worry about it going bad.

Drybar Brush Crush
On days that I don't wash my hair, I use this in the morning to tame my bedhead. It works perfectly to get rid of the creases from having my hair pulled up overnight, and makes it nice and smooth. A friend with curly hair recently bought it on my recommendation, too, and says she loves it!

Foreo Face Cleaner
I use this every single time I wash my face, and I even take it with my when I travel. It helps get my face actually clean - I feel like it really works in my cleanser and gets rid of the oils without being too harsh on my face. I love that it's made of silicone, because it rinses clean really easily - it's not a typical brush material that can hold on to bacteria.



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Gift Guide: Last Minute Amazon Gifts

The holidays can get so busy and stressful that the time just seems to disappear! Somehow you find yourself one week before Christmas with (too many) people left on your gift list. In that spirit, I'm sharing some of my favorite gift picks from Amazon, all of which can be at your door before Christmas arrives.
Felt Lettering Board
I've wanted one of these for a while! It's the cutest little decoration for anywhere in your house - use it in the kitchen, your bedroom, the office - I can think or so many different fun messages to leave!

Echo Dot
What would an Amazon list be without an Echo? This is the dot, which is great when you want something for a small space, or something unobtrusive. But you can still set timers, control lights, listen to music - I use my Echo so much each day.

Tea Infuser
Winter is the perfect time for warm beverages - sipping a tea when it's snowing outside is so comforting. This is not only gorgeous (and would look great sitting out on a counter), but can brew all kids of loose leaf teas! Add a few of your favorite tea blends to make it a more personal gift.

Card Games
Whenever my friends and family get together over the holidays, the games always come out. What Do You Meme? is absolutely hilarious, and every time I play we cannot stop laughing. I had never seen 'Tis The Season before, but if you want to give a more holiday-themed gift, this seems like the perfect one.

Sherpa Lined Blanket
I know that blankets are in all of my gift guides, but I just really love them. Sherpa-lined ones are the best - so cozy and warm.

Smart Plug
The perfect thing to pair with the Echo Dot, or for someone you already know has an Echo. This lets you turn things on and off just by telling Alexa - the lights, the TV, a space heater - whatever you want!

Pretty Candles
Nice-smelling candles add so much atmosphere to the house. These look like they'd add the perfect touch to any room - when I think of "hygge," this is exactly what comes to mind!


Bluetooth Speaker
I think speakers like this fall into the category of things you don't think to buy for yourself, but make great gifts. This one is indoor and outdoor, and it's Bose, so you know the quality is good.

Monday, December 16, 2019

ACHIEVA Awards of Excellence

Last week, I had the honor of being given the ACHIEVA Award of Excellence in Community Awareness. ACHIEVA has a long history in Pittsburgh - they've been around for over 50 years, and they've been continually involved in advocating and providing services for people with disabilities. They do so much, and they're so well-known by the disability community in Pittsburgh and beyond.
I cannot tell you how special it felt to be included in this group of awardees. It still feels kind of weird for me to be recognized for my advocacy work - I feel like I'm still new and learning so much! So being honored by ACHIEVA was very rewarding. And to be able to hear the stories of each of the other community members being honored was incredible. One after another, each person shared personal stories about their ties to disability and to advocacy. It was truly inspiring to be reminded of the people out there who care deeply and are so committed to change.
It also reminded me how grateful I am for those of you here, who read and share my posts! My advocacy and disability posts are always some of my most read posts, and that means a lot to me. I know that my advocacy work would be nothing without the community that I've surrounded myself with. Whether in person, online, or both, I'm so grateful for you and your support!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Favorites

Maybe it's because I know that the holidays, and a break from work, are quickly approaching, but this week really seemed to drag on. I say this a lot, but I am really looking forward to a low-key weekend (clearly, Lily gets it).
This week's favorites are below...

ONE - In The Heights trailer
This only came out yesterday but I have already watched it SO MANY TIMES. This is my number one movie that I'm looking forward to seeing this year - it just looks so incredible and magical. I get chills each time I watch it!

TWO - Instagram Interview
This is a really great interview with one of the Instagram co-founders. It's a really deep dive on how Instagram has changed over the years. It's always interesting to learn more about an app we use so many times a day!

THREE - Green Dress for Christmas
I bought this dress from ASOS earlier in the week when I was looking for a dress to wear for Christmas Eve mass. I love that it's festive, but not too over the top. I think it'll be perfect!

FOUR - Jennifer Garner and Julie Andrews
This video is so cute and so relatable! I'm pretty sure I would be exactly this tongue-tied if I were to find myself unexpectedly talking to Julie Andrews, too!

Five - Disney+
No link for this one, but I signed up for Disney+ a few weeks ago and honestly am loving it. I am definitely sucked in to their new, original shows like Encore! and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, but I also loved re-watching the original Lizze McGuire series! In my opinion, definitely worth it.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

Gift Guide: Shopping Small and Local

As much as I love the sheer number of options I have to choose from when I'm shopping online from somewhere like Nordstrom or ASOS, there's something to be said about shopping small and supporting a local business. Since I missed Small Business Saturday this year, I thought I'd share a gift guide highlighting three local businesses that I love!
Knotzland
Knotzland is a local company that makes sustainable, handmade bow ties. They use almost entirely reclaimed/discarded materials to create their bow ties, and they're incredibly stylish, too! I serve on the Warhol Board with Nisha Blackwell, the Founder/CEO of Knotzland, and she is just so cool and creative. If no one on your list is a bow tie-wearer, keep them in mind for future events - they do custom orders, too!

Arbor House Soaps
Arbor House Soaps are handmade, delicious smelling hand soaps. They come in so many different scents; there's really something for everyone. They make such a great host/hostess gift, or you can add in some lotion or bath bombs and make a really cute little bath-centered set. My aunt is actually the owner, so I can personally attest to how wonderful they smell!

Katie Koenig Art
I guess this post should really be called "I Know Some Awesome People," because Katie is one of my very best friends. It's been so crazy to watch her grow as an artist over the years - her work is really sunning! She's doing some "mini masterpieces," which I think make perfect holiday gifts. I'd love to have these little macarons and this cappuccino hanging in my house!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Chic in Black and White

Theoretically, I love a simple black-and-white outfit. Sometimes in practice, though, I worry that it looks a little more middle school choir concert than it does Breakfast at Tiffanys-esque! But when it works, it works - it looks so sleek and chic and effortlessly pulled together.
Hopefully, this is one of those black-and-white outfits that works! I wanted something that was simple and easy to throw together, but didn't look like I hadn't put any effort in! I have been wearing (and mentioning) this dress from Amazon (find it here) so much this year. It's the perfect base for any outfit to build off of!

The other real reason for this outfit was that I wanted to wear these new shoes! I loved the pointy toe and the little bow in the front - it gave them a little extra detail without making them look too young. Sadly, the shoes are now sold out, but these shoes here would also be the perfect addition to any black-and-white outfit.

And finally, the scarf was something that I picked up at a Holiday Market outside the National Portrait Gallery in DC! I loved the subtle pattern, and how comfy it is. Obviously, you can't get this scarf online, but this scarf here or this one here are really similar, and don't spoil the simplicity of the look.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Accessibility: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Dealing with accessibility issues, and trying to improve them, always feels like such a mixed bag. It's never a straight path forward - for every big step forward I feel like I take, there's always a setback, or a curve in the path that goes somewhere I just didn't expect.

Within the past few weeks, I saw a really exciting accessibility change happen, and I had something really disappointing happen, so I thought that I'd share them both in one post. I want to end on a good note, so I'm going to start with the disappointing one.
When I was in DC, my sister and I booked blowout appointments at Drybar - at a location in Penn Quarter that we'd been to before, a few years ago. Since I had actually been there, I figured that I didn't need to worry about if they had the removable chair at the hair-washing station, because I'd used it! Drybar has also made it really hard to call a specific location to ask these kinds of questions - you have to call the corporate number, corporate will send a message to the location, wait for a reply, and then call me back with the reply. It can take hours, and you have to cross your fingers that the question you asked corporate got translated properly to the store.

But when we arrived and were taken back to the hair washing area, we found out that once again, there was no removable chair. Apparently, the chairs had been replaced a few months ago, and when they replaced them, they made them all permanent. The manager was great about making sure she put in a work order request to get it fixed, but that didn't help us there, in the moment.

We ended up finding a non-Drybar salon nearby with an accessible hair washing area where I got what might have been the best blowout of my life, so it really ended up working out for me. But I just couldn't believe that Drybar had actually removed the accessibility - it wasn't that they didn't include it from the start, it was that they had it and then took it away. Having a removable chair is something that doesn't hurt anyone; it only helps. Taking it away feels like a slap in the face - like Drybar is telling me that they don't care about whether or not I can get a blowout with them.

I'm contacting Drybar on my own, but before I share my happy story, I'd like to make a small request - if you're willing, please contact Drybar and let them know that this is an issue you care about, and that all of their locations should have removable chairs at the hair-washing station! Having many voices tell them this is more powerful than just one or two voices, and I'd really appreciate you sharing and spreading the word.

Now, to end on a positive note - this week, something happened that I have been wanting for YEARS - "my" Starbucks (Amos Hall on Pitt's campus) installed automatic doors!
The backstory - this Starbucks opened within the last 5 years or so. It's super convenient for me, because it's really near my office, and I visit multiple times a day. The staff have gotten to know me, and they've been great once I'm inside, but I could never get into the store myself. I'd have to sit outside and wait for someone to walk by, so that I could ask them to open the door. If it's 70 degrees out, that's not a huge deal. If it's 20 degrees and snowing, it becomes a lot more frustrating. One (or more!) of the baristas had actually tried to ask Starbucks corporate to add the automatic buttons, but it never happened.

Then one day I was at a meeting for Oakland accessibility, and happened to talk to a Pitt employee about my issue (since I was coming to the meeting cappuccino in hand). Since the building is owned by Pitt, and not Starbucks, he seemed to think it was something that he could fix for me. I didn't hear anything for a few months, so I wasn't sure if he had forgotten, or if he had run into a roadblock. But then I came back from my DC trip, went to get my coffee, and found out I could get into the store all by myself!

I was - and still am - so excited. It's such a small thing, I know, but I rely on people for help in so much of my day. Knowing that going to get a coffee is now something that I can truly do independently is super exciting, and takes away some of the uncertainty in my every day: Will there be someone walking by when I get there? Will they have their headphones in and not be able to hear me? How long will I have to wait outside?

So while I may have started this month feeling disappointed about accessibility, I'm definitely ending it on a high note. Change might be slow, but it can happen!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Gift Guide: $50 and Under

I'm really proud of myself this year - I have more of my Christmas shopping done than I have at this point in December on any other year. Now, I may have also bought myself a gift or two in the process, but that's not the point! I'm checking off more and more people on my list, and just have a few left to go.

Whether you have everyone left on your list to buy for, or just the final few, I pulled together a few things that I think will make great gifts this season. There's tried to pick a good variety, and as a bonus, everything is $50 or under!
L'Occitane Gift Set
This is such a great little set of L'Occitane products! Their lotion and shower gels are the best, and this has little sets of each with different scents. Buying makeup or skincare for other people can be hard, because people have such specific things they like and use, but this is something that anyone would love.

Cozy Blanket
I firmly believe that you can never have enough throw blankets. Snuggling up under a warm blanket, especially in the winter, just feels so perfect - for reading, or movie watching, or napping. It makes such a great gift, especially because people don't always think to buy it for themselves.

Plush Robe
Just like a blanket, a plush robe is great for lounging around the house, and it makes the perfect gift. This one looks so soft and warm, which is key!

Electric Smores Maker
This is so cool that I want one for myself! We have a little fire pit that we love making s'mores on when it's not winter - this is a little electric s'mores maker, so that you can enjoy their year-round and indoors. I definitely don't think it's something most people would have, and would be really cute as a housewarming gift!

Fuzzy Scarf
Just like makeup and skincare can be hard to buy for other people, so can clothes. Scarves are something that everyone likes, though, and you can never have too many! And this one is warm and fuzzy - if you couldn't tell from the rest of this list, that's something that is always a plus for me!

Travel Pouch
This is another item that I want to add to my own wish list! It's another travel pouch, which would be a great enough gift on its own, but I think this one is extra genius. It's a place to put all of the things that you want to be within easy reach, whether its on a plane or in a car. Your phone, your headphones, a charger, your ID, some cash... there's room for all of that!

Relaxation Grow Kit
The holidays are fun, but they can also be stressful! This little kit is all about relaxation - a lavender plant, an eye mask, and sleep spray. This is so unique, and would make such a fun gift.

Cute Mug
Anthropologie always makes the cutest mugs, and these are especially pretty. If you add in some hot chocolate or tea, this is a gift that you know people will get real use of.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday Favorites

This has felt like such a strange week to me! With Thanksgiving being so late this year, I came back from DC to my final presentation being due for the semester. It was not the easiest transition back after a trip! But the good news is that the presentation is done, and that means I'm finished with my last-ever class for my MPH! I still have one more semester left, during which I'll be writing and presenting my essay, and then graduating in April. This has been such a long time coming now, and finishing my last class seems like SUCH a milestone.

This picture is actually another from DC, not here in Pittsburgh, but it's so pretty that I had to share. Sometimes you just end up with perfect timing and catch a shot you could never have planned for.
Now, this week's favorites...

ONE - Hamilton Defined the Decade
It's been months since I've shared anything Hamilton-related, so I'm well overdue. Billboard named "My Shot" as one of their songs that defined the decade, and obviously I agree. If you haven't listened yet, you must! 

TWO - TikTok and Censorship
An article came out this week showing that the app TikTok suppressed videos created by disabled, fat, and queer users. It was done in an attempt to decrease bullying on social media, which is valiant, but by singling out and suppressing videos by these creators, it's actually increasing the stigma!

THREE - Penguins on Parade
And now for something a little more lighthearted! Every year during the winter (when it's cold enough), the Pittsburgh Zoo brings the penguins out of their enclosure for a little "parade." I went a few years ago - I was one of the oldest childless people there, ha! - and it remains one of my favorite-ever activities. Look how cute they are all lined up!

FOUR - Pantone's Color of the Year
Each year, Pantone picks a color to represent the coming year. This year's is "Classic Blue," and I am here for it. Blue is my favorite color, so I'm biased, but this really is such a classic and I love it.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Spotted in DC

The holidays getting closer means that I start getting bombarded from sale e-mails from stores. This is great when I have gifts to buy, but less great when I'm tempted to buy things for me and not other people! I just always seem to find something that I love and must have.
That's exactly what happened with this jacket. It's no secret that I love leopard print - I consider it a neutral. So when I came across this leopard print BB Dakota jacket, I knew that I had to add it to my wardrobe. I actually have a few other suede jackets by BB Dakota in different colors, and I love them for the fall and winter - they add more style to an outfit than a typical cardigan does. The leopard print version just takes that up another level!
I brought this with me to DC, and it was perfect for walking around the city (though I definitely wish I had worn tights!). It was warm enough for outside, but not so hot that I had to take it off when I went inside for dinner. And I just felt like it really made a simple black t-shirt dress so much more stylish! It would also be great with a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt, too.

It's on sale right now - well under $100! It's perfect as a gift, or as a gift for yourself - it'd look great at a holiday party. I know that it'll make an appearance in my outfits lots of times in the next month!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Giving Tuesday

I know that I don't usually post on Tuesday, but it's a special day today - Giving Tuesday. Today is the day that you're encouraged to donate to and support your favorite organizations, local and national. I wanted to share with you some of the organizations that I support.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
I've been part of the New Leadership Council of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for close to 5 years now, and I'm so happy to be part of a group encouraging people to experience the arts. I may come off as analytical (which I am!), but I love music of all kinds - there's nothing better than going to hear a live show. Supporting the arts is so important, especially as funding keeps getting smaller and smaller. The PSO is an award-winning orchestra - even if you don't donate, if you're in Pittsburgh, you should absolutely see a performance.

Community Living and Support Services 
This is my third year serving on the Board of Directors of CLASS. I was so honored when I was asked to join - they have a long legacy in Pittsburgh. CLASS actually worked with Mr. Rogers to help him address disability on his show! They provide direct services for people with disability, and are also involved in advocacy work. They're a great local organization that I'm more than happy to support.

The Warhol Museum
I just joined the Board at The Warhol this year, but I've been impressed by them for years. Not only are they the go-to museum to see Warhol's work, but their other exhibits are always incredibly innovative. Their educational programming and community-centered events are also inclusive and diverse, as is their physical space. I'm so proud to be a part of the museum, and think it's more than worthy of support.

Cure SMA
Cure SMA does amazing work for SMA-related advocacy, support, and research. They've actually supplied the seed grants for research that turned into Spinraza, currently the only-approved treatment for SMA. In exciting news, another drug was just submitted to the FDA for approval, which means more treatment options for people with SMA!! None of these are a cure, however, and continued funding for research and support is so, so needed.

Give Kids The World Village
I've written about Give Kids the World Village before - GKTW runs the "village" where Make-A-Wish kids and their families stay while they're on their Wish trip to Disney World. My sister and I stayed there years ago as Wish Kids ourselves, and it's truly a magical place. Everything is super accessible, and the princesses come for breakfast a few times a week! Staying there really makes the trip so special, and the volunteers that make it happen are so incredible. I just can't say enough good things!

Accessible YOUniverse
Of course, this list wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention my own organization, Accessible YOUniverse. Everything that we've been able to do so far has been really exciting, but we really rely on the support of the community to make things happen! If you're able to donate, or spread the word, I'd really appreciate it.

This is just a small list - there are so many other worthy organizations! Who are you donating to today?? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Week in Washington, DC

I mentioned this in one of my early November posts, but every trip that I took this summer was for something - a conference, a wedding, the pageant - there was no trip just to get away and relax. So when I looked at Pitt's academic calendar and realized that we had the whole week of Thanksgiving off from classes this year, it seemed like the perfect time to get away.
We wanted to go somewhere driveable, rather than flying, and for us that puts a tighter restriction on the distance, since we can't drive for as many hours a day as the average person. You know how you feel tired after a day in the car, even if you're not actually the one driving? For me, it feels like that plus extra physical tiredness. So DC is the perfect destination for us - it's only about a 5 hour drive for us, and there's so much to do when we're there.
We stayed at One Washington Circle Hotel, which was super conveniently located. We ended up driving a lot, but it's very near a metro stop, and there were so many restaurants and cafes walkable from the hotel. We stayed in a one bedroom suite, and it was roomy - it even had a balcony! Plus, there was no pet fee, which was such a bonus. Clearly, Lily settled right in. She's gotten so much better about not freaking out at hotels.

We didn't want to pack our trip with too much stuff, since the point was to relax a bit, and because it can take us longer than usual to get ready in a hotel, without our usual stuff. So we did a mix of stops at museums, dinners out, and ordering in to the hotel.

Our first full day there, we went to dinner at Jaleo, which was amazing! Zaytinya is one of my absolute favorite restaurants, and both Zaytinya and Jaleo are owned by José Andrés. It was one of those times where I felt like I couldn't possibly eat anything else, but I didn't want to stop because everything was just so good!
The next day, our big stop was the Newseum. I had been wanting to go for a while, but when I heard that it was closing at the end of December, I knew that I HAD to go. I got to pose as a news anchor, see the front pages of that day's newspapers from across the country and the world, and see a really fun exhibit about Jon Stewart and other late night hosts. For dinner that night, we went to North Italia, which was less than a 5 minute walk from the hotel, where I got an incredible short ribs dish and my sister got their "famous" bolognese. So good!
On Wednesday, we went to the National Portrait Gallery during the day. I knew that a portrait of Lin-Manuel Miranda had recently been added, so of course I wanted to see it! There was also a really intimate shot of Anna Wintour in her apartment, and the truly iconic Michelle Obama painting. And those are just a few highlights - there was so much art that I could have spent days in the gallery exploring it all. Wednesday evening, we had our big Thanksgiving meal a night early, at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. Because our reservation wasn't until 8 PM, and the rest of the grounds closed at 5 PM, we didn't actually get to explore the grounds. We did, however, enjoy the extensive buffet spread they had set up! I love seeing the whole extended family on Thanksgiving, but it was nice to do something a little more low-key this year.

We started Thanksgiving Day by watching the parade and eating leftover Pumpkin Pie that the Inn had kindly had sent home with us. Later on, we went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This was another museum where I would have needed a few days to see everything. I loved how the history floors were set up - you took an elevator down to the bottom floor - going "back" in time - and then walked around and up ramps to move between floors and time periods. It was inclusive design done well - I didn't have to find a separate wheelchair path to get around. I was really impressed! And of course, the museum itself was incredible. There was so much to take in. You used to need timed-entry tickets to get in, but now on weekdays from September - February, no tickets are needed.

On Friday, we packed up and headed back home. We had a great trip, and I'm already looking forward to going back! DC is one of those places where no matter how long I'm there, there are always more things I want to do.