What’s Better than The Strip? Downtown Las Vegas

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The Strip gets all the Vegas glory, the favorite child. It’s never surprising when I talk to non-locals about my sparkling hometown that they’re all about The Strip. All marketing draws tourists right on down to Las Vegas Blvd. to spend money on alcohol, partying, and slots. Even those who have visited before rarely realize there is an off-Strip gem too often hidden: Downtown Las Vegas on the famous Fremont Street.

But I’m always surprised when some locals are either unfamiliar with Downtown Las Vegas or just haven’t taken the time to visit. When someone asks me what I did last weekend and I reply “I went downtown,” too often they look at me with a blank stare. “We have a downtown?”  Sigh.  Locals are frequently trapped by the chain restaurant/store culture of Vegas. It only takes a short drive to get to the center of the city – (and free/cheap parking is possible!)

So tourists, locals of all ages, but ESPECIALLY my fellow Millennials – let me enlighten you. You’ll thank me, I promise.

The Strip is expensive. A tourist trap. The drinks are lightly poured and overpriced. The food can be delicious, but often way too expensive to indulge regularly. The club scene is pricey and overhyped. Everybody should visit The Strip once or twice. It’s an experience. See a Cirque show and watch the Bellagio fountains, go to a club if that’s your thing. But then move on to greener pastures and do as the locals do (Or as all the locals SHOULD be doing).

Fremont Street dates back to the early 1900s. There was a time when it was THE place to be in Vegas. Times changed; it got grimy for a second.  Then the early 2000s, some brilliant people got together and decided to make Fremont Street East (east of Las Vegas Blvd.) the new face of Las Vegas. They have gotten in touch with the Millennial generation, increased their hipster vibe. With new restaurants, bars, and venues, Downtown Vegas on Fremont Street is cool again. And it’s where you should be!

These are my favorite spots to hit up at night (I’ll add some day-time suggestions if anybody is interested!). Tourists, visit Downtown Las Vegas. Locals, come on, ditch the neighborhood Chili’s and go where the culture is!

  1. Park on Fremont

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Park on Fremont is a really cool place to grab some food and drinks.  I love starting the night off here.  The outside seating is the best.  The tables out front have amazing Fremont St. people watching, and the seating in the backyard is wacky and awesome.  Eclectic plates line the walls, there are pillows and unique chairs, wild art.

  1. Commonwealth

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Commonweath is a bar set in the style of pre-prohibition.  The decor and the servers themselves place you in a time that isn’t your own.  There’s also live music sometimes and an on point upstairs patio.

  1. Don’t Tell Mama

Don’t Tell Mama is a piano bar with singing bartenders.  And it’s one of my favorite spots in all of Las Vegas.  The piano players are fantastic and play a wide variety of songs.  Sometimes the piano player sings, sometimes the talented bartenders hop on the stage and sing, sometimes it becomes karaoke and the customers sing.  You will always have a good time.  I’ve heard the best live performance of Josh Groban’s “The Prayer” while sitting in this little piano bar.

  1. Le Thai & La Comida

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Both of these restaurants are fantastic and have really cool vibes.  Le Thai has phenomenal thai food, but the wait can be long.  Call ahead and they’ll text you when your table is ready. Very modern.  La Comida has delicious food and more tequila options than you’ll know what to do with.  On their website they brag that they have “more tequila than seats.”  Just take a shot for me!

  1. The Griffin

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I love, love, love The Griffin.  It’s dark, like you’re underground.  There are lanterns and huge fireplaces.  Very cozy vibe. We usually hit up The Griffin early in the night, because I like to match their chill environment with smaller crowds.  But to each her own.

  1. Atomic Liquors

Atomic has been around since the 1950s.  It’s a slice of old Vegas.  An oldie, but a goodie.  I like sitting outside on their outdoor barstools and watching Fremont Street.  They serve my favorite hard cider of all time – Jack’s.

  1. Container Park

This is almost a bonus, because I couldn’t figure out if I should suggest this for the daytime or nighttime.  So I’ll say both!  Container Park is made out of shipping containers.  The containers are now filled with little shops, restaurants, and even a gallery.  In the center is a treehouse jungle gym for kiddos (at 9pm each night, when the park becomes 21+, the jungle gym is for the grownups.  Yes.)  They also have live music and a flaming praying mantis.  So you should basically go now.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, it’s okay.  But give it a try anyway.  You can make a night of it and then hop across the street to all the glittering lights of Fremont Street’s famous Golden Nugget, Plaza, Binion’s etc.  Also, you can probably take a picture with a half naked showgirl or man-baby.  Welcome to Vegas.

Strong Women and the Fear of Being Needy

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When I first started dating my boyfriend, I was determined to show him how strong and independent I was.  I’d already been through hell and back. I had battle scars. But I was strong. I knew our relationship would only be successful if he knew one fact: I was not a needy woman. Strong women aren’t needy, right?!  I already believed that no one man could meet all of my needs, that is way too high an expectation to put on any human being.  And I never wanted him to think I was pathetic or that I couldn’t handle myself.

So my first impulse was to never text or call him first.  NEVER bug him. NEVER let on that I was pining over him. He needed to know I was perfectly capable of being busy and occupied without him. But that all started feeling a little fake. Sometimes I really did want to talk to him or see him. But I never wanted to appear to be needy.  So I’d wait for him.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Like a damsel in distress.

Truth: there was nothing strong about any of this. Fortunately, I had three massive relationship-changing realizations. And I happen to think they are important for any strong woman. I’ve talked to really amazing women who struggle with this balance.  We live in a confusing time where we hear mixed messages about being strong and independent and at the same time are still being told to let the men do all the work.

  1. Strong women don’t prove their strength by being passive; strong women prove their strength by being active.

I was trying to demonstrate my lack of neediness by not calling/texting first or asking for what I wanted, but instead I actually gave this new guy every ounce of the power in the budding relationship. He could lead it any way he wanted. That power differential is unhealthy and CERTAINLY not what I wanted out of a relationship. And here’s the thing, he never demanded that power. I gave it to him willingly.  Because women are trained to believe that’s what they’re “supposed to do.”

If a woman wants to talk to a man – talk! If a woman wants to take a man out to dinner – Call! Strong women know what they want, and they ask for it. They have the confidence to be comfortable and unashamed about their desires. We need to switch our understanding of independence because we have it backwards. Independent doesn’t mean we never want anybody. If that were true, no independent woman would ever date or marry or have friends. Independent means we do not need anybody else to hold the power of our lives. An independent woman holds her own power.

  1. If a man doesn’t like that I am confident enough to call him first, reach out to him, or ask HIM out on a date, he is not the man for me.

Strong women must accept that not every man wants a strong woman. Some guys haven’t clued in yet. Still, I’m willing to guess that most independent women actually want a man who likes independent women. Well at some point the “newness” gets wiped away. And you start showing your true colors.  If he doesn’t love strong women, he will never love you. So show him now.

I realized this early on (thank GOD!) – If my boyfriend wasn’t going to like my confidence or ambition, why in the name of all things lovely would I ever continue dating him?! Why waste my precious time?! I told him what I wanted and expected, and I called him when I wanted to talk to him.  When I was busy, I didn’t call him.  I showed him my true colors.  He was completely on board with me, so I was on board with him. If he hadn’t liked my forwardness, HE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THE MAN FOR ME.

  1. It’s not needy if it’s a need

Women need to get over this idea that asking for quality time or emotional connection is needy. A friend reminded me earlier in my relationship: “It’s not needy if it’s a need.” If I need a man who is willing to spend quality time with me when I’ve had a rough day, it’s not needy to ask for it. It’s honest. It’s a need I have.

But this also places responsibility on each woman to determine what is truly a need and what isn’t. You may need to text your man. But it’s not a need to send him 26 follow-up texts when he doesn’t respond right away! It may be a need to call him when he’s been out of town for a while to connect, but it’s not a need to call every hour just to check in again and again! AND REMEMBER: If a man were to try to contact you 24/7 or complain that you hang out with your friends instead of him, or try to constantly interrupt your work, we would call that man controlling and dangerous.  It goes both ways.  Owning half the power in the relationship demands that you not abuse it.

Let me confess something to you in closing. I still don’t do this perfectly even though I’m now in a lovely, committed relationship with the guy who accepted me for who I am. It’s always messy and there is no rulebook to guide your steps. So find the guy who likes your brand of crazy and supports you where you are. Then be honest with him. Don’t let fear guide your relationships. Show him who you actually are. Strong women are strong because they know what they want and they ask for it.

Image via Flickr

Minimalists, Millennials, and Me

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Millennials are becoming a growing group of minimalists – and I will gladly step aboard their “let’s not have lots of things” train.  My favorite definition of minimalism comes from the blog, The Minimalists: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

It’s not difficult to find out why Millennials are giving up possessions and trading in luxury to become minimalists. Millennials watched the generations before them give up everything – to earn everything – only to lose everything. The heartbreaking irony. Gen-X and Baby Boomers slaved away to earn money and gain possessions. It was not helpful that mass media shoved consumerism down everyone’s throats. So they followed the rule: If you work hard, and earn a lot and buy a lot and give your children everything they want, one day you can retire and live the life you always dreamed. Except there was this thing called a Recession. Millennials got a front row seat to the “You Don’t Always Get To Keep Your Hard-Earned Possessions” show.

Many Millennials see large-home-buying, new-car-buying, “fill your massive home with every piece of furniture and gadget known to man” buying as a big gamble. It takes a lot of time to earn that much money. And it takes such little time for the economy to crash, or for your boss to lay you off.   This is not a gamble a lot of Millennials are willing to take. Marijuana? Maybe. Working your life away for lots and lots of things? Not as much.

Me? Well I’ve already experienced losing most of my possessions (which you can read about here). And though I have moments where I miss this or that, it’s been the most freeing feeling to not have my name attached to so many things – things that I have yet to need.  But getting rid of all my furniture was not enough. I am still surrounded by things I don’t need.  Clutter.  And I’m not into it.  I want to own less, so I can do more. I believe that a smaller life can actually provide me a bigger life.

I’m going to go through every area of my life and begin downsizing. Cutting the clutter. I don’t have space for it. Literally and figuratively. And I’m going to document it in a new series “Millennial Minimalist.” From small items – purse, wallet, cosmetics – to bigger messes – wardrobe, paperwork, books (English major!), etc. I’m figuring out what works and what doesn’t and then sharing my tips and my tears as I part with things I’m way too emotionally attached to.  It will be great fun.

My motto throughout the entire event will be: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris. Even if I know something to be useful, I probably don’t need 329 of them. Like eyeshadow. Lord knows I have too much eyeshadow.  WWMD? (What would the Minimalists do?)

If any of my other fellow Millennials are minimalists, or are in the process of minimizing – let me know! I’d love to hear your tips and possibly even feature your work!

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Image via Flickr

The Power of Female Friendship

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As a textbook introvert, making friends has never been extremely natural for me. My habitat is in my own head.  But let’s be honest, it’s a little crazy up there.  So, like most human beings, I need other people.  I have tried to respect the way I was wired while balancing the art of learning how to make and cultivate female friendships.  So I’ve asked extroverted people how to small talk.  I’ve learned that complimenting a woman’s shoes is a great intro into a little conversation.  An introverted girl’s gotta start somewhere.

When I went through my divorce, I thought I was alone.  I went from a couple to a single.  I stopped saying “We” and had to say “I.”   “Hey you guys” turned into a “Hey you.” It was in this time of mourning and confusion, I saw how deeply precious and necessary female friendship was in my life.  I wasn’t alone.  Because other women get it.  They have had relationships end.  They have been mad, heartbroken, and confused.

So I started stepping out of my comfort zone more often.  I tried to make new friends and enrich the friendships I already had.  Any of you extroverts may think I’m crazy, but this was incredibly foreign to me.  I was an alien in the land of people.  But somehow I figured it out.  I look around me now I can see so many amazing women surrounding me. I obviously have a friend type.  I like strong, creative, funny, brave, and KIND women.  And they are all vulnerable.  They don’t hide their shit.  I gravitate to women who will allow me to be honest with zero judgement, and women who will be honest with me.  Then this really amazing thing happens.  You learn that you’re not alone.

Here’s the thing.  What I’ve learned.  And I know this for sure.  There is something powerful and unstoppable when women join together as friends and defy all stereotypes of female cat-fighting, back-stabbing, and bitch-slapping.  We need each other.  We need to support and lift one another other up.  It’s really that simple.  Because this world is tough.  It is so freaking tough and nothing goes as planned and everything falls apart sometimes.  And we need to be reminded that we aren’t alone.  We need friendship.

I met up with two different lovely girlfriends two days ago.  One younger than me, the other older than me.  Our lives aren’t identical.  But we each knew what the other was going through.  I met with one in the morning and we kept saying “Me too!” or “I totally get that!” because we do get it.  I met with the other in the evening and we kept saying “Me too!” or “I totally get that!” because we do get it.  When we as women have the power to support each other because we understand exactly what it’s like to be female, why would we ever choose to do otherwise?  

There is power in female friendship.  Strong and independent women know how to tap into that.  Weak women would rather tear other women down.  They haven’t yet realized that they’re missing out on something incredible.  I haven’t done this perfectly for my whole life.  But each year I get older I know I’d rather lock arms with other women then try to do it alone.  Because it can be brutal out there.  It can also be really fun.  And there’s no one better to laugh about it all with than a good girlfriend.

“Girls get competitive, as though there’s only one spot in the world for everything — but that’s not true. We need to stick together and see there’s more to life than pleasing men. It’s important not to cut yourself off from female friendships. I think sometimes girls get scared of other girls, but you need each other.”  – Zooey Deschanel

Image via Flickr

Millennial Mothering: My Struggle to be Perfect || Guest Post

I love Millennials, and I love women’s issues.  I try to combine the two, but know I come up short when the discussion turns to motherhood.  That’s why I asked this amazing mother what it’s like.  Meet Ally, my sweet friend.  She told me she is “perfectly imperfect,” and I thought that only made her even more brave and amazing.  She’s hitting on a universal truth.  We aren’t perfect, and so many of us pretend to be/want to be – whether that be in motherhood or anything else.  This is truly beautiful and made me cry about 309 times. (P.S. She talks about how much she doubts herself – but I happen to think she is an INCREDIBLE mother!).  Be encouraged moms!  Be encouraged humans!  Happy Mother’s Day. – Tay xo

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I am a self- proclaimed perfectionist.
I struggle with comparison
I am a mom, a brand new mom
I write major run-on sentences.
I say “like” to much :)
I talk WAY to much
I forget to text/call people back A LOT!
And I struggle with judging myself with each of these things and so many more.

But recently, in the past 9 and a half months of being a mommy, I’ve really been examining this whole perfectionist thing. Who knows if I’m just so exhausted I don’t have the energy for it anymore, or if (and this is what I’m hoping it is) I’m just realizing that it is actually too exhausting to be perfect.
Who’s wanting/ needing me to be perfect?
My husband? Nope
My baby boy? No
My family and friends? Huh uh
God? NO
Me? Yes, wait, why?
Because I’m comparing myself to others. Plain and simple. I’m comparing myself to other mommas. Other Chrisitan women. Other 32 year olds. Etc. but again that all sounds exhausting once I write it down. That’s me wanting ME to be perfect. And I really don’t have the energy for it anymore. So, I’ve started looking at these “imperfections” and I’ve come to realize that they really aren’t that big of a deal.

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My imperfections make me… Me. They aren’t my flaws. Even though everyday my perfectionist self is ridiculously critical of those “flaws.”
I make the mistake (just like all of you I’m sure) and listen to the lies.
We try so hard to cover our blemishes. And I don’t just mean the annoying ones that pop up on our adult faces. But the blemishes that pop into our minds that cause us to bring ourselves down…
I don’t study the bible enough.
I keep the TV on way too much.
I need to lose the rest of this baby weight.
I need to cook for my husband more.
Be the housewife I’m supposed to be since I’m a “stay at home momma.”
(The list could go on for days)
I let those little lie blemishes get to me. Make me judge myself as a mom, a friend, a daughter, a wife and more importantly a Christian. But then I stop and think…
Is my little guy happy? Yes
And more importantly breathing? :) definitely yes
Does my husband know how much I love him? Yes.
Does God love me? Absolutely, without a doubt, YES!
So instead of these blemishes getting me down, I let them be reminders how how much I’m loved for my imperfect self!

And through this examination of my life, well this area of it at least, I’ve come up with a little saying.

“I am perfectly imperfect”

I look into my little boy’s eyes. See his unsurpassable love when he sees me. And know I’m doing it right. We may watch WAY to much tv. Let him play with my iPhone. Stare at the monitor while he sleeps to make sure he’s still breathing. But in spite of all of those different things, that so many people have opinions about, I know I’m doing everything right. Because he loves me and knows that I love him.

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I made this tiny human. I prayed for him for 2 years, no correction, my whole entire life. I love him fiercely, with all my being. I never knew I could love like this. With all of me, without even trying. And because of that I know I’m doing it right. I’m mothering my son. My lovely, sweet, joyful little boy, perfectly. I may be imperfect sometimes all the time but in his eyes and more importantly in God’s eyes I am perfectly imperfect. I am a broken person and that’s just fine. Because I am loved by a loving, forgiving Father. Who loves me so much He heard my cries and prayers to be a mother. And He answered them. And more importantly He died for me. Not because I was am a perfect Christian girl, friend, daughter, wife. But because He loves me for the imperfect being I am. So I’m embracing my imperfect-ness. And living life!

Now, Please don’t read this and think “wow she’s really figured it all out, she’s got it all together”. Haha. Lies. I don’t. Believe me I still deal with these comparisons each and everyday. And I probably will for the rest of my life. I fight that perfectionist girl inside of me All. The. Time. She’s quit annoying actually! But I am learning to love my imperfections. Because God loves me in-spite of them.

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I’m learning to stop, breathe, listen to these imperfections and use them to build myself up. Because if I don’t I end up guilting and shaming myself and that’s counterproductive to what’s supposed to happen. I am human. Not God. I wasn’t designed to be perfect.

So I guess I’m not perfectly imperfect per say but instead…
I am an imperfect human loved by a absolutely perfect GOD!

IMG_3176Follow Ally’s Blog, One Little Mama Bear, HERE