Friday, October 31, 2014

3 Tools to Stop Procrastinating

I'm sitting here at my computer desk at 3:29 AM, writing the beginning of a blog post for which I don't even have a topic yet.  Sometimes I just want to write, without necessarily having a reason, argument, or even a goal.  I just want to write, dammit.  And yet, as I type this, I know full-well what the problem is, and right now writing seems to be as good an answer as any.  You see, I am writing to avoid something difficult.  I am actively ducking something work-related that is outside of my comfort zone, and that, quite frankly, I really don't want to work on, even though it is due in 10 hours, and I need to sleep somewhere in there. 

Somehow, through a lifetime of being gifted at test-taking and getting A's on last-minute college essays, I have trained my instincts to think that procrastination is good, and that putting things off that really need to be done leads to success.  For the first 20ish years of my time on this earth, that strategy worked fine--until I became employed by someone whose values system around planning and "GTD" was the exact opposite of mine.  This boss made a habit of planning things the same day she found out they would happen.  She liked charts, schedules, diagrams, calendars, and a whole bunch of other organizational and time management devices that I just didn't want to have to hassle with.  Needless to say, this professional relationship eventually fizzled.  Although I (mostly) eventually got my act together, every so often I still find myself in my current situation, wasting away the wee hours writing, noodling on my guitar, chain-watching YouTube videos, and seeking out an array of podcasts on a topic for which I already have way too many.  Luckily, I've acquired some great tools to get myself past this barrier or procrastination.

Here are the 3 most useful ways I've found to break the procrastination barrier:

  • Manage your time with a schedule.  Yeah, yeah, this is the copout answer.  But hey, it works.  Seriously, if you make a habit of keeping a calendar and daily schedule on which you set aside specific times of the day for specific projects, you are far more likely to not get unexpectedly caught up browsing LOLcats for 3 hours.
  • Ask yourself why you are avoiding a task.  What is it about writing those quarterly reviews that has you dodging it?  Why are you so anxious about having the "Let's see other people" conversation with someone you're just not feeling it with?  Getting real with yourself about your issues with a task can help you overcome the procrastination barrier.
  • Give yourself 10 minutes to keep procrastinating--but only 10 minutes.  Sometimes it helps to step back from the situation, take a breath, and admit that you are avoiding doing something that needs to be done.  And you know what?  Sometimes that's okay.  So give yourself a little time to waste, but be very strict about when that break ends and it's time to get the ball rolling again.

Here is an awesomepage full of articles on procrastination at Psychology Today.  What tricks have you found that help motivate you to get going and kick the procrastination bug?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

4 Reasons to Make Planning a Habit

I am not a planner by nature.  Carefully plotting out my agenda for a day/week/next 5 years is not something I often think to do, let alone get excited about.  My instinct is to "just wing it."  Even though this has led to a lot of fun, spontaneous things happening in my life, it also led to a lot of irresponsible decision-making and lack of forward motion in life, to the point at which I sometimes still feel like a 17 year old in a 29 year old's body.  I've gotten much better over the last 2 and a half years at planning for the future (or just tomorrow) over the last few years, though it's still a work in progress.  However, since I have formed the habit planning out my days, weeks, and life a little bit, my own success and satisfaction has improved in so many areas: I have more money in savings, my relationship is happier, and my achievement and success at work has improved tenfold. 

Here are a few ways that making a plan can help you, too:
  • Planning forces you to think about your goals.  You can't write directions without first knowing where you are and where you want to go.  Sitting down to write any kind of a plan, whether it's for your workday or for your next vacation, causes you to examine what is most important to you.  Once you know what it is you value, it is much easier to design a roadmap to get there.
  • You WILL save time and frustration.  When I wrote about the recent camping trip I took with my girlfriend, I mentioned how much making a simple checklist saved us from having to make unnecessary trips to the store and wasting time and money on things we could have just brought from home.  Get in the habit of making a simple checklist of items you might need or steps to accomplish a goal, and you will save yourself a huge headache, and give yourself more free time to do what you love.
  • Successful people are planners.  Laura Vanderkam, author of the ebook "What the Most Successful People Do At Work," has found that, by and large, successful people go into their days and weeks with a plan for what they want to accomplish.  If you make planning a habit, you will always be armed with information to guide you in the decisions and choices that come up.
  • Other people expect you to have a plan.  I was almost fired from a job a few years ago due to my lack of planning and free-spirited attitude.  I had a boss who was an intense micro-planner, and I was the opposite of that.  I moved to a new company where I am now much happier and more successful, but that position was rocky in the beginning as well.  Because I had not yet learned my lesson about planning my workdays, I made small, stupid mistakes that put me on the same path as my previous gig.  However, this time I turned it around.  I started writing myself a daily schedule down to the 15-minute block of where I needed to be and when, and I stuck to it as best I could.  Within 8 months, I was given 2 significant raises and a promotion, and was viewed as a go-to authority on several subjects in my district.  This massive turnaround was simply due to my putting some forethought into my days, so I always knew what to do.  Having a decent plan can be the difference between looking like a slacker or a rockstar in your boss's eyes.

Not everything goes according to plan.  Murphy's Law will always come into effect at some point.  However, if you take just a little bit of time to think about what it is you want to accomplish and how you want to do it, you will be far better armed to deal with the unexpected, so that bumps and bruises don't become train wrecks. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Seven Tips for Your First Camping Trip That I Just Learned This Weekend

Our home for the weekend
In my quest to be "unbusy," I came to the realization that in the year and a half we've been together, the girlfriend and I had never been away together for a few days, so this past weekend, we took our first camping trip.  No, we didn't go backpacking through the desert for 9 hours to reach a remote riverbank with no signs of other human beings around for miles--we chose a well-known Texas state park on a pretty busy weekend.  No, we didn't sleep outside with the wild animals--we had a modest tent to keep us safe and block the wind.  We just went for an average camping trip in a place with just enough amenities to make us feel like we were roughing it while still being comfortable enough for a first time out. 

Now, the lady has never been camping before.  Like, ever.  The most she had ever done was gone to hang out in a cabin with some friends at a lake for a day, and then went home that night.  I used to go camping a few times a year as a kid, but mostly I ran around and played/complained with my sister and cousins while the adults actually set up camp.  I went into this with vague memories of helping my dad set up a tent once or twice, and watching him expertly build a monster-sized, Boy Scout approved campfire, but no real knowledge or experience with doing these things myself.  While we encountered a couple of minor hiccups over the weekend, the overall experience went very smooth.

Here are a few first timer tips we learned while we were out in the woods this weekend:

  • Make a list.  A few weeks before your trip, make a list of everything you are likely to need or want while you are camping.  I used the OneNote app on my Windows 8 phone to make a checklist, but paper and pen work just fine.  This list should be all-inclusive and divided into sections--for example, headings could be Cooking, Housing, Clothing, Toiletries, etc., and individual items under those headings would be paper plates, 2 sleeping bags, 3 pair underwear, and toothpaste respectively.  Be as thorough as you can when making this list--you can always trim it down later if you feel it's getting out of hand.  You just don't want to forget something really important that you won't be able to pick up at a moment's notice.
    About 150 feet from our campsite
  • Seek the advice of an experienced camper.  It's always best to go over your list and plan for the weekend with someone who has done this several times before.  Almost all of us have a dad, uncle, coworker, etc. who is outdoorsy and knows a thing or two about camping.  I got together with my dad a few days before our trip and went over everything with him.  He showed me how to safely handle a propane lantern and grill, gave me some tips for general safety and courtesy, and pointed out some unnecessary or impractical items on my checklist.  For example, I had on my list that I would need a hatchet or small axe for firewood--my dad pointed out that, since this was a very popular state park with few vacancies, I likely would not find any serviceable firewood to chop near my campsite, and that I was better off just buying a few pieces at the park store.  Speaking of practicality…
  • The hassle should not exceed the fun.  Camping is fun.  There is something about being out in the woods (or desert, beach, etc.) away from the city lights and noise, and having to work a little bit to do things we take for granted on a daily basis.  But don't let tediousness overwhelm the reason you go camping in the first place: to have fun.  For example, my first time out, I could have gone to the trouble to scavenge the campground for enough kindling and tinder to get a fire going, but it would have taken far longer, and my girlfriend would not have enjoyed doing it, which would have made me enjoy my weekend less--so we used fire starter logs. In about 5 minutes, we had a decent fire going.
    Swimming area with diving platform.  Instagram is your friend.
  • Don't rough it too much on your first camping trip.  I am so glad we chose Daingerfield State Park for our first camping trip.  It is a small, breathtakingly beautiful state park in the East Texas Piney Woods, and it is built for easy-going recreation.  It has a wonderful swimming area complete with a diving platform, canoe and pedalboat rentals, a fairly tame but gorgeous 2-ish mile hiking trail around the small Lake Daingerfield, a tiny general store that sells those "oh crap, we forgot XYZ" items at very reasonable prices, communal bathrooms that are well-lit and clean, and a full-size Brookshire's grocery store just 4 miles from the park entrance.  All of these things makes forgetting something an "oops lol, I'm a dummy" moment instead of an "Ah, shit, this weekend is going to be terrible" one. 
  • Bring more (blank) than you think you need.  If you are using a propane lantern, grill, or both, bring more than you think you need.  The last thing you want is to run out of light in the evening, or cooking fuel when the burgers are on.  The same rule applies for socks, underwear, firewood, ice, etc.
  • Check out the weather in advance, but be prepared for anything.  I love chilly October nights, so I packed what I deemed to be appropriate sleeping gear and clothing.  However, when it got down to 50 degrees F on our first night there, the girlfriend vehemently disagreed with my appraisal of "appropriate sleeping gear."  The poor girl was freezing her ass off while I comfortably snoozed.  Even during the summer, always pack one more blanket than you might need.  Conversely, even when it's supposed to be 65 out all weekend, always pack at least 1 pair of shorts in case you have a hot day.
    Up near the general store and swimming area
  • Bring something fun to do in the "downtime."  The girlfriend was not a big fan of my Walking Dead jokes and suggestions for ghost stories, so as the fire slowly receded and died out on Saturday night, we broke out her iPad and did a few jigsaw puzzles and brain games that had us laughing and engaging with each other 'til lights out.  If you don't want to bring any tech toys (I'll admit, I was iffy on it at first), bring some great board/card games like Kingdoms or Seven Dragons--things that are easy to teach and endless fun. 

Your first camping trip with your spouse, SO, family, or buddies can be as awesome as our was if you take these few tips into account.  And remember, at the end of the day, it's about fun.  Let that be your number one question: Is this fun?  If not, don't do it.  What other tips and tricks have you learned as a newbie camper?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Do Your Job, A**hole"

I walked into a fast food restaurant a couple days ago, and within minutes of walking in, I was instantly struck by how nobody who was there wanted to be there.  For the 3 minutes I stood at the counter waiting to be addressed, I watched and overheard 2 staff members and a manager goofing off within line of sight of me.  For 3 minutes, they laughed and joked about something seemingly unrelated to work while I and 2 other customers behind me waited for their attention.  Eventually a cashier mustered enough muscular expenditure to kind of slither over to me (I say slithering because her body writhed in the way a slug slowly inches across your concrete porch on a hot summer night) and take my order.  It was clear from the first moment she spoke that this 18-22ish girl was annoyed that she was even there, and was downright exasperated that I was there, too.  She didn't smile at me the entire time, audibly sighed when I made a single substitution, and set my change on the counter instead of handing it to me.  And then when the tortilla on one of my items came out stale as a piece of cardboard, she didn't apologize or say anything at all to me before turning to a coworker and yelling "This guy doesn't like his taco, he wants another one" without explaining that the first one had an issue.  Basically, this entire interaction left me feeling like I was an irritating speed bump in the drag race that was her day.

First off, I manage a fast casual Tex-Mex restaurant, so I'm allowed to judge.  I know what her day entails.  I can predict with pretty close certainty what her job responsibilities as a cashier at a quick service Tex-Mex joint cover.  I could probably guess about what her rate of pay is, and the kind of customers she deals with on a regular basis.  While I don't know what her life is like outside of work, I have a pretty damn good idea what it's like on the job, because I manage people who do that job every day.  Based solely on that one interaction, I would never, ever hire this person for ANY job, let alone a customer-facing one.

You should do your job well.

I'm sorry if you don't like your job.  But it's not an excuse to not do your job well.  While you are at work, you worry about doing your job well, and nothing else.  The sum total of your life circumstances, experiences, and actions have brought you to the point where you have accepted an offer to do this specific job satisfactorily for an agreed upon wage or salary.  If you don't like that, work to change it.  But while you are at work, your part of the arrangement is to execute your job to the best of your abilities, period.  Your employer is paying you a wage and/or benefits package that you agreed to for your work, so do your work.  If you don't want to, you are free to leave at any time for any reason or no reason.  It's that simple.

I'm in charge of hiring and training for my restaurant, and I do my best to only hire people who want to do their job.  Even if somebody has years of experience and an excellent job history, if I get a vibe in the interview that they aren't excited or happy to be there, I won't hire them.  When I do hire someone, I set very clear expectations and job responsibilities for them.  I train them thoroughly and provide lots of in-the-moment and reflective coaching and feedback, both positive and constructively critical.  I give them all the tools I reasonably can to succeed in their job.  And I'm very lenient with people who need some extra attention and time to learn their positions; not everybody is amazing from day one.

You can't teach "give-a-shit."

But I can't bring their attitude for them.  If they show up acting like they don't want to be there, they don't need to be working that job.  For example, take the girl at the fast food joint.  She has one job: to be nice to people.  Yeah, yeah, I know--there are salsas to portion, napkins to stock, tables to bus, cups to unwrap, trucks to unpack, etc.  But at the end of the day, that's what a customer service person does.  They are nice to people.  It is their job to efficiently and politely help a guest and make them feel welcome.  And in the case of a cashier at a fast food place, all they have to do to make that happen is smile, say "Welcome to (blahblah)…" and "Thank you" and provide the guest with the correct items for which they've paid in a timely manner.  It is sometimes hard work, but it is not rocket science.  It's not shoveling undissolved crappy toilet paper out of a sewer grate at the wastewater treatment plant.  There is nothing prohibitively difficult or unpleasant about being nice to someone and getting paid for it.  More importantly than that, it's work they sought out, applied for, interviewed for, accepted, and then showed up to.  So there is no excuse to not make a real attempt to do it well.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Downtown Garland is Perfect for Dallas Millennials

I grew up in the afterglow of an older, middle-ring post-war suburb of Dallas called Garland, TX.   The area I grew up in, with its 900 square foot blue collar houses and endless sea of mostly-empty strip malls, was caught somewhere between the nostalgia-tinged Main Streets of prewar small town America and the ocean of asphalt and big box stores swallowing up the modern countryside.  We still lived close enough to walk to school and the post office, but not to stroll to the grocery store or to buy some new shoes.  All the neighborhood kids still rode their bikes to the corner store, the park, and each other's houses, but most important trips still involved getting into the car.  We definitely played our share of video games, but only if it was too hot or too dark outside to finish our never-ending games of hide-and-seek and ill-conceived padless full-contact football matches.   I had a small taste of "neighborhood life," even though we were kind of far from the big city.

Poetry Place, a restaurant/special event space in the former home of Main St. Coffeehaus
Garland is famous--well, at least far more famous than it probably should be, and not necessarily for flattering reasons.  Garland has been touted in pop culture media for appearing to have absolutely nothing interesting going on.  Perhaps its most famous reference point would be Mike Judge's long-running animated series "King of the Hill."  It  has been hinted at with all-but-certain confirmation that Judge's fictional small-town suburban setting of "Arlen, TX" is heavily inspired by my hometown of Garland.  In "King of the Hill" the people of Arlen are presented with a kind of "aw-shucks"  simplicity, showing them as uneducated and unworldly people who nonetheless lead fulfilling lives of barbecue, block parties, cheap beer, and family values.  The movie "Zombieland" is decidedly less kind in it's very brief description of Garland.  In addition to these unflattering portrayals, Garland has had some very real things happen that have taken away some of its prior appeal.  When I was a little kid, there was a Wet 'n Wild water park and a great little farmers market where there now stands a CarMax.  The city moved its huge, locally-famous 4th of July celebration "Star-Spangled 4th" from it's charming downtown square to the new outdoor mall at the edge of town, getting rid of the carnival rides and fair-type midway just because the mall could accommodate a little more parking.  This move is perhaps the worst, because it took away the potential business opportunities the celebration brought to locally owned downtown businesses in favor of giving Old Navy and Gamestop a little more foot traffic. 

The Generator: great coffee, local art, free WiFi, and live music
Despite all of the things Garland doesn't have, there is one huge thing it does have: potential.  Specifically potential to attract the millennial cohort that cities and towns all over the country seem to be competing for.  The generation (my generation) that grew up watching Friends, Seinfeld, and Sex in the City tends to prefer smaller homes close to a walkable town center and rail transit over an exurban landscape of clover leaves and big box stores.  Big things have been happening in Garland, albeit slowly, to lay the groundwork for an influx of 20-30 year olds, and if the city leadership and current residents are open to new ideas and personalities in their community, downtown Garland could be the next Bishop Arts District--a thriving, hip, artistic community that attracts nightlife, new residents, and an economic revival.  Here are some of the reasons Garland is poised for a millennial boom:

  • The DART commuter rail.  Downtown Garland is connected to downtown Dallas, Plano, Las Colinas, Deep Ellum, Fair Park, and now even DFW airport by a cheap, short train ride.  Since downtown Dallas has also been undergoing a huge revitalization in the last decade, millennials who want to rely less on their cars but not pay the insane downtown rents will find downtown Garland a great choice.
  • Bike-friendly.  Downtown Garland has always been an easy place to ride a bike, given the gridded streets and wide lanes.  But the city has recently shown their intentions of making the town center even more bike friendly, by adding dedicated bike lanes along both sides of Glenbrook, a major road through town running North and South.  As millennials ditch cars for alternate modes of transportation, making it easy to get around by bicycle is a smart move for Garland.
  • Great local businesses.  While Garland has not yet seen the culinary resurgence of places like downtown Plano (Urban Crust is amazing), it is home to a few great little casual haunts.  Whether its burgers and craft beer at Salvage Pub and Grill, killer Tex-Mex at Dos Banderas, delicious diner fare at Hubbard's CafĂ©, or a gyro sandwich at Main St. Deli, millennials will always have something tasty within walking distance in downtown Garland.
  • Modern, urban-style apartments.  A few short years ago 5th Street Crossing, a modern urban-style apartment building with ground floor space for retail and professional services was built right next to the DART station.  The second such project is currently underway across the street.  In these beautiful apartments, millennials will find high ceilings, bright colors, hardwood floors, a great fitness center, and all the other amenities  they often look for in a place to live.
  • Downtown Garland has character.  While the town center is small, the buildings are old and beautiful.  The square is a great public space that, given foot-traffic, would be a perfect venue for musicians (Garland Square Pickers, anyone?), art shows, board game afternoons, outdoor yoga classes, and all the other things Gen Y-ers do at parks.  If there's one thing my generation values more than anything else, its authenticity--and downtown Garland bleeds it.  It feels like a small town because it is a small town; it just happens to be one of the biggest small towns in the US, and is a short drive (and even shorter train ride) from a major city.

Great food and local craft beer at Salvage Pub and Grill
While I am under no illusions that the transition will be automatic or overnight, I do think that, with some intelligent planning and community support, downtown Garland could easily be the next suburban area in Dallas to undergo an urban renaissance, bringing millennials to the area, along with their young families and their money as well.   

Being Unbusy

Being busy will kill you. 

Not "doing something productive you really want to do" busy; more like "can't go to the concert this weekend because I really should clean out my car" busy.  Or "don't have time to look for my dream job because I'm too busy compiling reports for the one I hate right now" busy.  The kind of busy that, if you really put a couple of minutes into figuring it out, could be worked around, greatly reduced, or eliminated altogether.  Every moment you spend being busy is a moment lost.  It's all about opportunity cost.  If you spend time being busy, that's time you can't spend doing something else.  If you turn down something because you are busy, you might not get that opportunity again. 

I spent the first 8 years of my 20's being too busy.  I have never had traditional weekends as an adult, which I convinced myself for far too long was an adequate reason for missing weddings, birthdays, bachelor parties, and other important events.  I told myself time and again that I just didn't have the time or schedule flexibility to be present for these once-and-done life events that I won't get the opportunity to see again.  I repeated to myself countless times that these things simply weren't an option for me, when in reality, all I had to do was put in a simple schedule request.  I don’t know if it was a desire to not seem needy at work, or perhaps a means of allowing myself to not have to think about my ailing personal relationships when these events came up.  Either way, I missed them.  I will never see one of my oldest friends get married for the first time.  I will never be at the baby shower for the arrival of my best friend's kid.  I will never get to go to the weekend-long "manly events competition" bachelor party for an old gaming buddy of mine.  Those opportunities are gone, and I spent them closing down a store that sold overpriced cookware, like any other day.

So screw that.

A little over a year ago, right about the time I turned 28, I decided I was not going to let the time slip by anymore.  I only get one shot at this weird-ass, terrifying, infinitely beautiful thing called life, and I couldn't afford to miss any more of it than I already had.  Since then, I have been sincerely trying to be as much of a "Yes Man" as I possibly can.  If there's something I want to do, I try my damnedest to find a way to make it happen.  Like last week, I took my girlfriend on a trip to the State Fair of Texas.  Next weekend, we are going camping.  These seemingly small ventures are things I'd convinced myself for years I didn't have time to do.

Of course, I didn't quit my job and move to Fiji to bartend on the beach.  I have a job.  I have an apartment.  I have responsibilities.  I have a girlfriend.  I have a life.  I'm not going to drop everything and hitch hike across the US like so many who have a similar epiphany claim to do.  First off, that's not what I want out of life.  Second, I firmly believe that the best way to live a full life is to achieve a balance somewhere between accountant and spendthrift.  Between townie and vagabond.  Between police officer and troublemaker.  Everyone's scale will balance a little differently, but happiness lies on the spectrum, not at the poles.  So these days, I work when it's time to work, love when it's time to love, save when it's time to save, and spend when it's time to spend.  I see my family and my friends more often, and spend plenty of time with my wonderful girlfriend.  I take time to go running, watch movies, read, write, celebrate, visit, vacation, and explore. 

While I definitely have a lot of demands on my time and attention, I strive daily to remain "unbusy," so that the important things don't get shoved aside by the urgent things.  In short, I am finding the time to live.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Howdy Folks!: Greetings from the State Fair of Texas

From the Skyway
There's something about state fairs.  Something communal.  Something spectacular.  Something magical.  Maybe it's the shouts of laughter and screams of exhilaration from the flip-upside-down-until-you-hurl thrill rides.  Or it could be in the endless sea of "food" stands parading an array of deep-fried ridiculousness to the already overstuffed masses.  Perhaps it's the nonstop barrage of advertisements for everything from $1800 sets of cookware to ginormous Chevy trucks with which one could pull a redwood out of the ground for "Jesus and freedom."  Whatever it is, as you walk around the fairgrounds and see everyone having the time of their lives, it permeates your skin and fills your lungs.  And it feels damn good.

I'll admit, I have only been to the State Fair of Texas twice as an adult.  I went this year at 29, I went once at 25, and other than that, I hadn't gone since I was 11.  My family was not a "Fair family," mostly because my parents were divorced and didn't make much money, and the State Fair of Texas, done "right," is a very expensive day out.  The few times I did go as a child, we rode 2 or 3 rides and spent most of the day watching product demos, going to the auto show, visiting the museums at Fair Park, and other inexpensive/free things.  We never bought any of the deep fried nonsense, save for maybe a funnel cake split between my dad, my sister, and I.  In short, while we always had a great time, we weren't your stroller-pushing, duffel-bag-toting, spend-our-year's-savings kind of fair goers I so often see.  This year, I wanted to do it up big.  I set aside a budget of $200 (this is big for some of us) for the whole day for the girlfriend and me, and this proved to be just enough.

We came in the Wednesday mid afternoon, arriving right at 4 PM.  Apparently we picked the best possible time to visit the fair, because it was noticeably not very busy.  This meant super short/non-existent wait times for pretty much everything.  I think the only ride we really waited for was the famous Texas Star Ferris Wheel, which is as much a part of the Dallas skyline as Reunion Tower or the "Green Building."  Even for it, we were only in line for maybe 20 minutes, and this was after dark, when the lines for all the tall rides grow tenfold so people can see the flashing neon lights below as they soar through the night sky.  Speaking of the Texas Star, this was my first time riding it, and it was an experience I'll never forget.  Sitting in an open-air cage with my lovely girlfriend seeing the Dallas skyline light up the city was the highlight of my week. 

And of course, we ate ourselves stupid.  Started with my absolute favorite, a gargantuan smoked turkey leg, a State Fair of Texas classic.  Throughout the day, we shoveled down the likes of a strawberries-and-cream funnel cake, honey-cinnamon fried butter, a big cup of Mexican elote (street corn), a mile-long chili cheese dog, plenty of beer, and a huge pina colada inside a pineapple.  If you're into decadence and have a pocket full of cash, the State Fair of Texas is one of the best places to indulge your inner little kid. 

All in all, it was a fantastic day full of fun and memories, and I was super psyched to get to spend it with the one I love most.