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Oklahoma forever has a piece of my heart

love them. Not necessarily for me, but for others. There’s something exhilarating about putting in so much effort to plan out a moment you hope will impact a friend or loved one’s life positively. It’s impossible to know what the reaction will be, but I envision big smiles, the screams of excitement, disbelief, lots of love and possibly tears.

For just over a month, I planned to surprise one of my best friend’s as she was invited to speak at the TedxOU Talk in Norman, Oklahoma. This was a huge opportunity. Ted Talks are known worldwide, global conversations between shared communities about issues humanity faces that make you think or inspirational topics that leave you feeling inspired. I wanted to support her because she has always supported me. Plus, I simply missed her and the state of Oklahoma.

See, a year ago this time I had moved from Oklahoma. My husband and I packed up our lives in a moving truck, with our doggies as co-pilots and moved our little family halfway across the country. We started a new life on the east coast, but your heart will always be in Oklahoma. My hubby and I met there, adopted our doggies there, got engaged there and married there. It’s a special place.

A week after I booked my flight, the Social Media Marketing Representative from the Sheraton in Downtown Oklahoma City reached out to me and asked if I was ever traveling back to OKC and invited me to stay and review the hotel. It was meant to be! Of course, I seized the opportunity. Being able to surprise one of my best friend’s and use my journalistic skills to blog my stay was a double win. I was ready for this emotional, crazy, adventurous journey.

Watching Oklahoma as I landed in a city I’ll always love was surreal. So many emotions were running through me. My friend Ali picked me up and seeing her familiar face made me feel more at home. She was driving the surprise vehicle, we had a master plan to give Emily one big shocker. First, we checked into the Sheraton Hotel, right in the heart of downtown OKC. As soon as I walked in the staff greeted me by my first name. They had done their research, it was a very thoughtful gesture, I already felt welcomed. The check in process went seamlessly. I got my room keys and headed upstairs. My room was reserved on the “Club Level,” which had access to a lounge with unlimited coffee, breakfast meals, happy hour h'dourves, etc. My room was perfect, a great space for me and a massive king bed for me to sprawl out on, I was bound to get my beauty rest. The view was incredible, I could clearly see the Devon Tower which is the tallest building in OKC, plus the OKC skyline was pretty as ever. I was happy. 

I made my way back downstairs to Ali, it was time. Emily’s husband Michael made sure Emily was home for our surprise and was nice enough to make us a healthy lunch. We simply knocked on her door and waited for her to answer. She did and she was in her robe! Come to find out her hubby made her change from less revealing robe to her more conservative robe, which was very hotel spa like. It added character to the surprise. We got her, we got her good.

Her expression changed from confusion, to excited, to emotional, there were lots of tears. I was just so happy to see her after nearly a year! We caught up quickly before Em had to go to rehearsal for her TedxOU talk, which was the reason I flew in to surprise her. While she tackled that, I made my way back to the hotel and got in a quick workout in before heading to dinner.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Sheraton’s fitness facility. First, I was happy to find out the workout center was open 24 hours, which is a huge plus for me. Especially on vacation when my schedule is chaos, making workout times unpredictable. I was impressed with the amount of space there was in the hotel gym! When you walk in, you see this awesome decal, a silhouette of a runner, which immediately got me motivated. There were so many cardio machines to choose from, treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bike, etc. Plus, there was a mat area for stretching and/or core work. It gets better. Beyond the mat section and workout machines, there was a separate room with free weights and lifting machines.

A well-rounded gym is crucial for me on vacation. Yes, I can program workouts only using bodyweight/minimal equipment, but having options is a huge plus. I was tired and restless from traveling, but a quick workout was just what I needed to re-energize and get ready for dinner.

Dinner was at Barrios, Fine Mexican Dishes. I had been here once before moving from Oklahoma City, a hot spot in the city with trendy decor, comfortable setting a delicious food. The best part of the restaurant in my opinion is the patio, there’s something so charming about eating outside under the stars. It was too cold this trip, but our setup was just as nice.

A big round table to sit all my friends who took time out of their busy lives to have dinner with me. It was a welcome back dinner to get the inner circle together and just chat about life! I had the arugula salad with salmon. You always here not to order fish in a landlocked state, but I was feeling dangerous. I’m glad I took the risk, it was light, flavorful and delicious. Also to mention, packed with Omega-3s. After chatting, laughing, nearly crying, it was time to call it a night. See my friends are newsies, newsies who wake up in the wee hours of the morning to report the news to the public. That’s how I met all of them. They were all my mentors, my peers, now my friends. I was just as tired after traveling all day and the energy drained from the super surprise we successfully put on.

I quickly realized how convenient having a hotel in downtown Oklahoma City was this trip. It was a central spot for my friends to drop me off, pick me up and/or call an uber and walk all around downtown. Plus, with the organized chaos schedule I was on, it was nice to have a home base where I could wind down, recharge, rest and have moments to myself. As much as I am a social butterfly, as I get older, I’ve really grown to love my alone time. Just me, with my thoughts. Plus, I just love being lazy in a big, fluffy, cozy hotel bed watching TV. It’s a part of the “experience.”

The next morning, I woke up early enough to meet another friend at my former gym, Four Star Fitness, for a quick and efficient upper body workout. We filled each other in on our lives and got our sweat on, double win. I was ready to conquer the day. I was able to walk back from the gym to the Sheraton and it was very nostalgic for me. The stroll took me right by my Husband and I”s old apartment, the 5th Avenue Lofts, right down the street from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. This loft is very sentimental to me. My husband and I grew into our relationship in this loft. First, I have to give him credit because he stuck with me through my news schedule, going to bed around 6:00 p.m., right when he was getting home from work, before the sun was down. We lived in a one bedroom, he used to have to wear headphones while watching TV. To make our lifestyle even more complicated, we lived in this apartment when I was prepping for multiple bodybuilding shows, which if you know anything about the sport, it involves massive food prepping, lots of hours in the gym and minimal personal time. Plus, I was cranky a lot during that 1.5 years of competing. My husband has more patience than I will ever have. He’s a Saint. We also got engaged on the rooftop of our apartment building and were living here during wedding planning and post wedding. We grew out of that one bedroom apartment very quickly. Little did we know we’d be moving halfway across the country sooner than later. That less than 1,000 square foot of a space will be the most sacred place to me. I swear I became a better person in that box. I miss it. I know my Husband does too.

Alright, enough of the sentimental stuff. Onto the food. I can always talk about food. I showered and made my way down to down to Block 23 in the Sheraton. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I got the egg white omelette (with spinach, mushroom and sliced tomato) and the fruit flatter (season fruit/mixed berries), plus coffee of course. My meal hit the spot and I loved the atmosphere, the hotel has really upped their decor, it’s super trendy, electric, but still offers that Oklahoma feel. Staff was friendly too. I ate my food and left satisfied and energized for the day! It was TEDxOU day.

Shortly after breakfast, my friend Scott picked me up to carpool to the event in Norman, OK. Of course, he helped me with a few downtown Oklahoma City photos first. Funny story, we made it all the way to Norman and stopped at Trader Joe’s to buy some flowers for Emily who was speaking at the event, when I realized I didn’t have my purse. I had left it on a bench downtown while Scott was snapping pictures of me.

Figures, we were too focused on making our own photo shoot, I was distracted and left there. My bag had been there for about 45 minutes!  I called the hotel immediately and staff found my bag right where I left it. That’s Oklahoma for you! If that would’ve happened in New York City, my stuff would’ve been gone. The hotel held my belongings while we made the drive all the way back to get it! Now that’s great service.

It was back to Norman. Luckily we had plenty of time to make it to see our friend Emily speak. She was amazing. Her stage presence is unmatched. She’s beautiful, smart and funny. I’ve always admired her witty personality. The topic of her TEDxOU talk was internet trolls and how not feed them. She is an on air personality for KFOR-TV (she’s a top Meteorologist) and she’s constantly on the radar, under scrutiny and subject to criticism. Now, a lot of the feedback she gets is supportive and positive, but occasionally there are those people who make unnecessary jabs that can truly be hurtful. She talked about the power of social media and how to use it for the greater good, not to abuse it. I was so proud of her, she nailed it!

After the talk, we grabbed lunch to celebrate then Emily brought me along to Soul Cycle in Classen Curve. Cycling has always been her thing, she has done a triathlon before, talk about incredible drive and endurance. We reserved bikes in the front, right next to the instructor, who I happened to know. Her name is Alli and wow, she worked us to the max and was an amazing teacher.

Her energy was infectious and I gave that class everything I had. The music, dark lighting and peddling to the beat really sets the tone for a fun class. In the end, I was 2nd to last place, but hey, that’s ok, I did it! Emily was a rock star. It was fun to do something adventurous and fun with her, as we did so many times when I lived in Oklahoma City. People tend to take experiences like that for granted, until they’re not so readily available anymore. Not me, I was savoring every moment with friend. Ok, workout done, now what’s for dinner?

After we showered and got dressed up for a girls night out. Our friend Stacy was meeting us at the hotel for dinner at Aria Lounge. I had been to this hotel many times before their renovations and I was pleasantly surprised with the look and feel of this new and improved trendy spot. The vibe was inviting, a perfect stop before a night out on the town. I ordered the half roasted chicken with parsnip puree, roasted root vegetables and mashed sweet potatoes. Oh my goodness, it was divine. Light, flavorful and filling. I savored every bite. I’m serious, go there and order this. Like now. You won’t be disappointed. My gals ordered some gems too like the B23 Mac & Cheese with smoked gouda and lumped crab meat plus cauliflower tacos that they were raving about. If all three of us were happy, that’s a success. We’re all foodies and critics and take our food very seriously. Paired with our dinner were some delicious cocktails too. The one that stood out was the cucumber fresh cocktail with gin, sake and lime. It was super refreshing. I may or may not have had two.

After dinner, we went to the Jones Assembly for one more drink before calling it a night. When Emily and i got back to the hotel, we were thankful the gift shop was open because we bought some chocolate only to share and eat it in the hotel bed before dozing off in the fluffiness!

The next day was jam-packed. Emily dropped me off at my girlfriend Loan’s house. We caught up while she did my hair and makeup for a fitness/lifestyle shoot with my favorite Oklahoma photographer, Leia Smethurst. Leia was my husband and I’s wedding photographer.

We had shot together multiple times when I lived in Oklahoma from fitness shoots, to Christmas card sessions, our wedding, one month wedding anniversary shoot, the list goes on and on. There’s a bond between a photographer and subject that makes taking pictures effortless, fun and creative. I always enjoyed working with her so it was necessary to get in a session with her while I was in town. We knocked it out in about two hours and took hundreds of pictures. After the shoot I was ravished and my friend Vinh picked me up to go out to brunch. We went to the Plaza District, one of my other favorite historic entertainment neighborhoods. The spot was quaint, comfortable with a local feel! I had the glass of bubbles (yes, champagne for breakfast) with the Farmer which was three eggs (I had whites scrambled) with maple sausage and had a couple bites of my friend’s biscuits, which is the restaurant’s staple! Yum, another great meal in the books! After brunch, I went back to the Sheraton to wind down and relax. Again, can’t stress how nice it was to have my own space during a busy non-stop trip. I relaxed in my amazing bed, watched tv, dozed off again then went to my friend Scott’s house for a 2018 vision board party! What’s that? It’s where you put your intentions out into the universe through pictures and words if you want, cut out from magazines. It’s a year ritual and so fun. It’s all about the law of attraction. It really helps open up the discussion of what you want to achieve, goals, hopes, dreams, thoughts, etc. It’s nice to have deep and intellectual friends who will go to this vulnerable spot with you. After a fun night of chips and queso (from one of my favorite restaurants, Cultivar in Automobile Alley) my friends dropped me back to the hotel where I slept through the whole night, much needed to gear up for my final full day in Oklahoma, one to remember for sure.

Sunday, I slept in until 9:30 a.m., hit the gym for a quick sweat session then ordered some food for pickup at Block 23 inside the Sheraton. It was halfway between breakfast and lunch, so I went with the fajita rice bowl to power me through my event from 1:00-3:00 p.m. It was pretty good, hit the spot and filled me up. Then, I headed downstairs for my first ever Legg Day Fitness meet up event in the “Brick Room.” A “meet up event’ is essentially a planned event where like-minded come together for a specific purpose, to meet someone influential in a shared industry, to become inspired, to learn something new. This was a chance for me to meet some of my online clients and other people I have connected with online in person, to continue to conversation face-to-face. I had promoted the event just two days before and was hoping at least 10 people would show up. All-in-all to my surprise about 30 people took time out of their busy lives to come say hi, hear my story and learn about my nutrition/fitness programs. It was super intimate and allowed me to spend quality time with each and every person there. I had a chance to hear about people’s goals, wellness and business wise, answer questions, share my knowledge and just  hang out with other motivated people. It was awesome. I provided water, coffee, fruit and veggies for the event and Sheraton staff did a great job setting up the venue and making everything look nice, presentable and welcoming. The Brick Room has a pretty neat vibe. A mix of Oklahoma culture with chic decor. It was a nice, big, quiet room, away from distractions and the perfect setting for a small get together. It was perfect ad was pleasantly pleased! Success!

After the meetup Emily, Stacy and her daughter Jaylee and I went to get my favorite dessert in Oklahoma City. Roxy’s Ice Cream Social in the Plaza District offers the most scrumptious, sweet tooth satisfying dessert, the salted caramel ice cream cookie sandwich! Sweet and salty has a way of satisfying the sweet/savory craving. My husband and I used to get this treat on special occasions like an anniversary, accomplishment, any excuse we could make. After a busy and productive weekend, it was worth celebrating with a delectable I no longer have access to on the east coast.

After dessert, Emily and I went to the Thunder Game. We needed more food than just sugar, something with substance and nutrients. We went to this restaurant called the Budweiser Brewhouse in the Chesapeake Arena, where I used to know the Executive Chef, Andrew Murin. I was so happy to find out he was still there! We ordered some entrees and he brought out some amazing appetizers. We seriously had an entire table of food for two people. We stuffed ourselves silly because we just had to try everything. It was seriously delicious. You can tell Andrew puts a lot of effort to create unique and flavorful dishes. We made it to our seats to watch the game. It was a good one, close all game, until the Thunder pulled through and beat the 76’ers. It was great to see the Thunder spirit in action again. My husband and I used to walk from our downtown loft to the Chesapeake Energy Arena to enter a raffle that took place every game, for a chance to win 1 out of 50 pairs of tickets! We won a handful of times. Such good memories. In Westbrook we Trust!

My trip to Oklahoma was simply perfect. I enjoyed spending time with the people I love, meeting people I’m connected with online in person, having the chance to stay and blog my stay at the Sheraton in Downtown, Oklahoma City and just being in the presence of the Oklahoma spirit. I really do consider Oklahoma as one of my homes. I may have only lived there for four years, but I left a piece of my heart there. That state is a hidden gem.

Thank you to the Sheraton for hosting me and Legg Day Fitness. My stay was so easy, convenient and comfortable. The staff went above and beyond to accommodate me and other guests as I always pay attention to how people are treated. The facility is also improving by the day, service wise and aesthetically. The vibe is awesome. There are so many amenities and I’m happy to say I used all of them, from the gym, to the Library Coffee & Co., meeting rooms, restaurants, VIP lounge and more. If you want convenience, comfort and care, I highly recommend this hotel for anybody visiting Oklahoma City.

Until next time, OKC, I love you! Thanks for the warm welcome always and you will always have a special place in my heart.

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